Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Lara were in Brazil for the recent Pan American games. From the Nuevo Herald-
Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Lara, who went to Brazil for the recently completed Pan American Games, were being held by police in a hotel in Rio de Janeiro. News reports say the Brazilian government plans to return them to Cuba.
Their failure to turn up for weigh-ins during the Pan American games last month shook the amateur boxing world because of their star status. The bantan-weight Rigondeaux, 26, was Olympic champion in 2000 and 2004, and Lara, 24, was a promising welterweight.
An article in the Brazilian daily O Globo said the two boxers claimed to have been duped by German-Turkish promoter Ahmet Oner and his aides, who — the boxers said — drugged them and removed them from the Pan American Village.
But just days after the boxers disappeared, Oner stated publicly that he had signed the pair for five years and was keeping them in a protected place. Oner, who heads Arena Box Promotions, added that he had spent about $500,000 to assist in the Cubans’ escape.
Cuban boxing trainer Roberto Quesada, who coaches Gamboa, said the Cuban boxing careers of Rigondeaux and Lara are ruined.
”I very much doubt that they’ll ever climb in a ring again if they return to Cuba,” he said.
Rigondeaux and Lara were found in a hotel in a resort town close to Rio de Janeiro. According to Brazilian media reports, they had been celebrating and had run up a large bill.
The reports added that both fighters expressed remorse to the authorities at the time of their detention and said they were willing to return to Cuba, apparently hoping they could resume their sports careers.
The same article said Rigondeaux has a wife back in Cuba. Both boxers probably have left family behind who are almost certain to suffer reprisals. Rigondeaux and Lara’s return to Cuba is almost certain not to change anything if past history has taught us anything. Defectors have often been killed and or tortured if they changed their minds and came home.
Sadly a few last vestiges of the Cold War live on. Even after Fidel Castro’s death, I don’t expect any immediate change in Cuba.
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