Among the great traditions proudly treasured by Cubans, is the undeniable quality of its boxers, who have represented and have kept very high the name of the island since the 1920’s, when Eligio Sardiñas, universally known as Kid Chocolate, won the world titles of professional boxing in the lightweight and welterweight divisions.
Not surprisingly, boxing is the sport that has granted more Olympic and world titles to Cuban delegations in all the history of Cuban sport with figures that almost triple the gold medals obtained by Cuban athletics.
The colossal amount of medals ( 32 gold medals, 15 silver medals, and 8 bronze medals) has never been attained by any country in 25 Olympic Games celebrated from Athens 1896 to Athens 2004.
We should not leave out by any means the name of professor Alcides Sagarra, founder in 1960 of the Cuban School of Boxing and who passed over in 2001 his duties as director of that school to Sarbelio Fuentes, probably one of his most prominent pupils, qualified by four years of uninterested collaboration with the development of this sport in Argentina.
Sagarra was born in the southeastern city of Santiago de Cuba . He was a boxer with few results during his youth, however, he proved an excellent trainer of several generations of Cuban boxers. From his starts as a trainer, he always remembers the teaching he received from the deceased specialist of the former USSR Andrei Chervonenko.
Both, Sagarra and Fuentes, shared the corner of the exceptional heavyweight Teofilo Stevenson, in the Olympic Games Munich’72 when he won the first of his three gold medals in such high level competitions in a fight with the favorite Duane Bobick, the so-called “white hope” of the United States .
Not only Stevenson was taken to glory by Alcides Sagarra. Many other amateur boxers have also been pupils of his. Some are Emilio Correa, Bautista Hernández, Adolfo Horta, Félix Savón, Maikro Romero, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Yan Barthelemy, and Mario Kindelán.
Although there is a great deal of Olympic or world champions in Cuban boxing, two names stand out the rest, because their will and their fists have weaved deeds too difficult to overcome. These are the cases of Félix Savón and Teofilo Stevenson.
Savón, born in the far eastern Guantanamo province, has been named “Boxeador historia” (history boxer) by the renowned sport commentator Rolando Crespo. He deserves nothing less, because he has been the boxer holding more titles in official tournaments. These are the gold medals obtained in the Olympic Games Barcelona’92, Atlanta’96, and Sydney ’00; and the six world titles in the heavyweight division (1986, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, and 1997).
In addition, this ebony giant with the face of a child, treasures four triumphs in world cups, three Pan-American games and three Central American and Caribbean competitions. He debuted with all possible glory when he crowned himself in the Junior World Championship of 1983.
Teófilo Stevenson, another giant of the four corners, was always feared for the strength of his demolishing fists, which more than once knocked the rivals out just with his powerful jab.
He won the gold medals in Munich ’72, Montreal ’76, and Moscow ’80. He was also crowned World Champion in the 1974, 1978, and 1986 editions, all of them in the super heavyweight division.
In Athens 2004 another giant named Mario Kindelán achieved his third Olympic title, a deed only achieved before by three boxers.
Among those who have the amazing mark of two Olympic titles are worth mentioning: Héctor Vinent, Ariel Hernández, and Ángel Herrera.
Held annually in the island, the Playa Girón national tournament and the international one Giraldo Córdoba Cardín, are ideal occasions to watch combats between novel figures and experienced ones. The firsts can thus confront their improvements in what can be considered an excellent pretext to learn new styles and techniques and gain experience. The champions of these events are selected to be part of the Cuban teams that participate in international competitions and that have contributed so much to the sport movement in the island.