On a thrilling first night of action in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) the Cuban Domadores show the kind of class on their pro-style debut that has made them one of the leading boxing nations at the Olympic Games.
As has now been widely reported, last night’s highly anticipated WSB match between the Cuba Domadores and the Mexico Guerreros was the first time in fifty one years that Cuban boxers received official permission to compete in pro-style boxing from the country’s authorities.
All questions about the ability of the Cubans to make the adjustment to the pro-style game now appear to have been answered. For instance when Yosbany Veitia became the first Cuban to box more than three rounds in half a century he still looked fresh after the five rounds that are contested in the WSB as standard. The same was true for the rest of the team. Not only did the Domadores cope with the extra rounds but they also dealt with the significant physiological demands of boxing at altitude in Mexico City.
The opening bout between Joselito Velazquez of the Mexico Guerreros and Yosbany “El Diablo” Veitia at Light Flyweight (49kg) set the tone for the evening. Veitia, the 2011 world bronze medallist was looking for revenge on his Mexican opponent for the surprise defeat the Guerreros boxer inflicted on him in the finals of the 2011 Pan American Championships. Although the bout last night was a close run affair, with both boxers displaying dazzling skills at times, perhaps there was a certain amount of poetic justice in the fact that Veitia was able to take the win. As the first Cuban permitted to box pro-style since 1962, he and his result will now go down in the history annals of the sport.
Yet nor was it the landslide victory that many had predicted for the Cubans, with the Mexican Guerreros, who reached the semi-finals of the WSB in Season III, putting up a strong performance. Irish boxer Conrad Cummings, pulled out an excellent win for the Guerreros when he beat 2008 Olympic silver medallist Carlos Banteur at Middleweight (75kg), proving that the Cubans aren’t invincible.
Indications that the Cubans might also be struggling with adjusting to the removal of head gear also became apparent when a clash of heads saw Flyweight (52kg) Mexican boxer Emigdio getting a cut above his left eye. This resulted in him winning the bout through TKO in round three. The Cubans will need to look closely at their style to allow for this change in the future, especially since from October all male elite AIBA Open Boxing (AOB –formerly known as amateur boxing) bouts will also be contested without head guards.
At Bantamweight (56kg) AIBA World Champion (2011) and currently ranked AIBA world number two Lazaro Alvarez out-boxed his Mexican opponent Brian Gonzalez across five rounds making great use of his range. While in the evening’s final bout, Light Welterweight (-64kg) world number two and London 2012 Olympic Bronze medallist Yasniel Toledo narrowly out-gunned his Guerreros opponent, the 2012 WSB individual champion Juan Romero.
Having edged out a strong Mexican Guerreros side by three bouts to two, the Cuban Domadores team now go into the final day of the match with a slight lead. Can they hold on or will the Mexicans bounce back? Find out tonight.