AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

Cubans to box as pros for first time in 50 years

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After being banned from turning pro by their country for more than fifty years, ten Cuban boxers are set to break the barrier for their nation when they compete at a special AIBA World Series of Boxing event this August in Mexico City.

“Cuba is one of the best – if not the best – boxing country in the world,” World Series of Boxing CEO Karim Bouzidi told Inside the Games Wednesday. “Seeing them competing for the very first time in a pro-style format will surely send shockwaves throughout the entire boxing world.”

The ten bouts between the Cubans and a team of Mexican fighters will take place August 30 and 31, and will be set at five three-minute rounds with no vest or headgear. AIBA President CK Wu plans to be on hand for the event and Cuban Boxing Federation President Alberto Puig de la Barca has promised to send only his best boxers, including Olympic and World Champions.

Pro boxing was outlawed for Cubans by Fidel Castro back in 1962, because he deemed it corrupt and corrupting, and other Cuban officials deemed it too dangerous. But the ban was officially lifted in April and Cuba then signed up for the fourth World Series of Boxing season, starting in November.

Providing young Cubans a platform to compete as professionals flies in the face of recent protests against the AIBA’s decision to allow pros on their circuit with fewer than fifteen bouts to compete at the Olympics, because it gives the boxers a chance to earn prize money and salaries early in their careers without being quickly lured away by promoters and trainers. Cuba has won 67 medals at the Olympics, including golds in the men’s light welterweight and flyweight divisions last summer in London.

President Obama to female Olympians: ‘Y’all crushed it’ (video)

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President Barack Obama hosted the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams at the White House on Thursday.

Obama opened his speech by saying that he had planned on doing a floor routine with Simone Biles, before ultimately deciding that the room was too crowded. First Lady Michelle Obama interjected to remind the crowd that her husband “can’t touch his toes.”

The President then singled out the athletic accomplishments of Olympians including Biles, Michelle Carter, Simone Manuel, Claressa Shields, Kristin Armstrong, Kim Rhode, Allyson Felix, Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali, Kristi Castlin, Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps and the men’s and women’s basketball teams.

He also recognized: Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab, Sam Kendricks, the U.S. Army reservist who put down his pole and stood at attention when the national anthem started playing, Will Claye, who proposed to U.S. hurdler Queen Harrison after winning an Olympic silver medal, and Abbey D’Agostino, who helped an opponent to her feet after a crash.

“That is exactly what the Olympic spirit and the American spirit should be all about,” Obama said about the sportsmanship of D’Agostino.

The President was particularly enthusiastic about the performance of the female athletes.

“2016 belonged to America’s women Olympians,” Obama said. “Y’all crushed it.”

Watch Obama’s full speech here.

After Obama’s speech, Biles presented him with a surfboard autographed by the Olympians in attendance.

“I’m going to have a lot of time to surf next year,” Obama said.

MORE: Photos of Team USA at the White House

Photos: Team USA at the White House

Twitter: @TeamUSA
Twitter: @TeamUSA
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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams at the White House on Thursday.

Below are some of the best photos of Team USA from inside the White House: