HAVANA – Cuba is breaking a five-decade ban on professional boxing and joining an international semipro league. Fighters will compete for sponsored teams, box without protective headgear and earn $1,000 to $3,000 a month.
The country has a long and storied boxing tradition and is usually a force at international amateur tournaments. This move represents a big step for the island’s Communist authorities, who long ago decided pro sports were not in keeping with Marxist social ideals.
The new format, the World Series of Boxing, consists of 12 squads from across the globe that square off in a series of five fights using a point system similar to the pros.
The World Series of Boxing is organized by the international boxing association known as AIBA. The competition begins in November.
“We are extremely pleased to welcome Cuba to World Series of Boxing,” AIBA President C.K. Wu said in a statement. “With a total of 116 World medals and 67 Olympic ones, Cuban boxers have always lived at the pinnacle of our sport.”
In addition to the salaries, boxers in the series can make $500 to $2,000 bonuses, although it’s not immediately clear how, or how much, the Cubans will be paid.
They still stand to receive a big raise from their current salaries, which are close to the $20 a month that most Cuban workers earn. The best boxers, those who win medals at major tournaments, are granted lifetime stipends of up to $300 a month.