With the start of the World Series of Boxing Season IV just days away, we profile the team that has fight fans around the world in a state of excitement: the Cuba Domadores.
With the announcement over the summer that the Domadores would be drawn in the same group as the defending champions Astana Arlans Kazakhstan, boxing fans have become wildly excited. The rivalry between the teams has been further shapped by the three World Championships finals contested between the two countries in the AIBA World Boxing Championships Almaty 2013 (which Kazakhstan boxers won 2:1). As if that Group B rivalry wasn’t enough, the Cubans will be making their WSB debut in the so called “Group of Death” which will also feature, local rivals the Mexico Guerreros, the WSB bad boys the Azerbaijan Baku Fires the enigmatic and lethal Russian Team and the incredibly robust Hussars Poland. Cuba’s welcome to the world stage of sport will be a dramatic one.
The team, which includes current World Champions Lazaro Estrada and Julio Peraza has one of the most daunting line-ups the WSB has ever seen. World silver medallists Yasnier Lopez, Arisnoidys Despaigne and bronze medallist Yosbany Soto add depth to the starting line-up, who are all drawn from members of the Cuban Olympic Boxing squad. The only conceivable weakness is the size of the squad. With just 21 boxers named, the Domadores are the second smallest squad in the whole of the WSB. While the quality of the boxers is there for all to be see, the season can be gruelling and injuries and fatigue can take their toll on a squad, particularly with long flights to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia anticipated for the team. This is conceivably the one potential banana skin for Cuba’s debut appearance in the commercial global sports scene.
The team’s logo pays homage to Cuban boxer Teófilo Stevenson, the country’s three time Olympic Gold medallist and World Champion, who died last year aged 60. He is widely regarded as being the most successful boxer that Cuba has ever produced and it is his image that the team will be fighting under.
The Head Coach
Rolando Acebal will of course be making his own WSB debut as a coach this year. However he has been coaching since 1978 and is the current Technical Director of the Cuba National Olympic Team. His most successful boxers read like a who’s who of international level fighters and he is certainly capable of guiding his talented team through the challenge that this group represents.
Interviews with Cuban boxers are rarer than a Przewalski’s Horse (how rare is that you ask? Well how many have you seen around lately?), so we are extremely lucky to have this interview with World Champion Lazaro Alvaro Estrada about his team’s preparations for this season:
How do you feel about competing in the WSB as the current World Champion?
It is very important that I won my second world title just days before our debut in the WSB, especially since I have changed my weight category from Lightweight to Light Welterweight (56kg to 60kg). The gold medal has greatly increased my motivation for the WSB, where I intend to go out and win every fight and help make the Cuba Domadores performance as excellent as people are expecting.
I’m very excited and almost impatient to start the competition and meet other great boxers in the ring. We had an intense preparation period and worked for all the aspects of the competition. We also know we can adapt very quickly to the demands of the WSB.
What are the most exciting elements of the WSB competition?
The WSB is an event that demands great preparation, being totally focused and being smart both in the ring and outside of it. For us it will be important to plan the tactics necessary to respond to opponents who are more experienced across the five rounds.
Everything needs to be taken into account in the WSB, including the time and distance of airport transfers, time zone changes and other characteristics of each venue and country where we will travel , but the team has worked well to address all that and we know that we will achieve our goal.
What is the atmosphere in the team now before such a historic moment for Cuban boxing?
The whole team has a great desire to start in the WSB, to prove that we are able to have a great impact on the competition as Cuban boxing always has in the Olympics and other tournaments.
What is your opinion on the switch to ten weight categories this season?
I think it is a great decision to use the same 10 categories as in the Olympic program, because it gives options to a greater number of athletes per team and boxers do not need to make huge adjustments anymore in order to compete. It takes a great amount of stress related to weight management away from the athletes.
What are the objectives for Cuba Domadores for this season?
We have what it takes to reach the final. We will do well in the ring and prove that we can go all the way.