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A closer look at Cuban boxing
As a boxing nation, Cuba has it all. A rich history, a successful present and an exciting future. This isn't just professionally either; Cuban fighters have amassed plenty of medals on the amateur stage over the years. Dating back to 1968 in Mexico, Cuba has won forty nine Olympic medals in boxing. Professionally too Cuba has a history of winning boxing belts, spanning from the 1930s until today. Now, who are the stand-out  Cuban fighters?

Cuba's Legends

Kid Chocolate
Featherweight
Won 135 (51 KOs)
Lost 10
Drawn 6

Eligio Sardinias Montalvo, known the world over as Kid Chocolate, is one of Cuba's most treasured boxing sons. Over his career, he won 135 fights (51 by knockout) and this captured him two world titles; from 1931-33 he was the Junior Lightweight Champion and from 1932 to 1934 he held the NYSAC Featherweight title. So, what made Kid Chocolate so great?

The main reason is that Kid Chocolate was a Frankenstein's monster of a boxer. Before he started his amateur career, he made a habit of watching the champions of the time on film. He would study their jabs, their hooks, they way they moved around the ring. He absorbed the parts he liked and polished them in the gym, becoming a mishmash of a fighter built out of the best parts of his favourite boxers. This practice served him well over his eleven year career, winning him two world titles and a massive amount of celebrity.

Jose Napoles
Welterweight
Won 81 (54 KOs)
Lost 7
Drawn 0

Ranked as one of the greatest Welterweights of all time, Jose Naples won seventy nine fights over seventeen years. He is one of the most celebrated Cuban fighters ever and although he was proud of his nationality, it caused him some big problems.

For a boxer to be successful, it helps if he can actually box. In 1961, Fidel Castro decided to ban professional boxing in Cuba, leaving Napoles and other Cuban fighters without a boxing home. Not to be deterred, Napoles relocated to Mexico and kickstarted a career that would see him win 4 World Welterweight title belts and be the undisputed welterweight champion from 1969-1970.

Cuba's boxing heritage is rich and the stars of today have a lot to live up to. Who is going to try and pick up the mantle of Kid Chocolate and Jose Napoles? Let's find out:

Up and Coming Cuban Fight Prospects

Luis Garcia
Light Heavyweight
Won 11 (9 KOs)
Lost 0
Drawn 0

Cuba's future looks fairly secure with their roster of upcoming fighters. Luis Garcia, who is nicknamed “the Lion” but enters the ring to “The Eye of the Tiger”, looks very promising. He has won all of his eleven fights comfortably, nine of them ending with his opponent on the floor. Most recently, he took an early step up in class, fighting former world champion Byron Mitchell. Garcia proved more than up to the challenge and after receiving a furious two-round beating, Mitchell called time on the bout.

Garcia is nearing the top ten in the light heavyweight division, needing only a couple more world-class fights to give him the push. There is no doubt that he will win a world title one day. He is fast, throws accurate combos, powerful hooks and he likes to launch a vicious attack from the second the bell rings. He would definitely be a struggle for any light heavyweight in the top ten, the only problem is he doesn't have a fight lined up yet. It will be interesting to see who is picked for him because it may well define his career.

Yunier Dortiscos
Cruiserweight
Won 12 (12KOs)
Lost 0
Drawn 0

Next up is Yunier Dortiscos, a twenty five year old Cuban boxing prospect who has won every single one of his fights by knockout. Dortiscos (12-0 12KOs) competes in the cruiserweight division and recently broke into the top fifty fighters in that weight class.

Admittedly, Dortiscos has spent his career so far fighting tomato cans. His last opponent was Jose Luis Herrera, a thirty one year old who started as a knockout artist but has now lost seven fights in a row. The young Cuban needs to step it up soon and face someone who is at the least in the top twenty five. Then we will see what his chances of a title are.

Alexei Collado
Super Bantamweight
Won 14 (14KOs)
Lost 0
Drawn 0

Alexei Collado, twenty three, is also undefeated and has also won every fight by knockout. Nicknamed The Hurricane, he is trying to take the super bantamweight division by storm, but his progress has been slow.

So far he has shown excellent skill and a winning instinct in the ring, beating everyone he has come up against. But like Dortiscos, Alexei Collado (14-0 14KOs) is untested against a top-level opponent. Until we see him fight someone of a better quality, it is impossible to properly gauge his potential.

So here we have seen that Cuba's prospects look good, especially with Luis Garcia. But what of Cuba's stars of the moment? Let's have a look.

The Best Cuban Boxers

Yoan Pablo Hernandez
Cruiserweight
Won 24 (13KOs)
Lost 1
Drawn 0

Hernandez is a twenty six year southpaw who has won his last ten fights. Most recently, he beat Steve Herelius for the interim WBA World Cruiserweight title and he is expected to challenge Panamanian Guillermo Jones for the full version this year. Hernandez is one of the quickest punchers in the game, and with his current hot streak I would expect him to pick up the full version of the WBA belt soon.

Odlanier Solis
Heavyweight
Won 17 (12KOs)
Lost 1
Drawn 0

Moving up a few divisions we have Odlanier Solis, a name that will be familiar to most for his knockout loss to Vitali Klitschko in March this year. Fighting for Vitali's WBC title, Solis started well and looked to be a good match for Klitschko but he had come in too heavy. His weight made him injure his ankle and unfortunately, Solis had to quit. It was ruled as knockout loss and it set his career back a few years. For his next fight Solis will face Varol Vekiloglu, a twenty eight year old who is not expected to light up the world stage. Solis needs to beat him easily and then set up a higher profile fight. Though even if he does that, a world title shot is not in Solis' near future

So unfortunately things don't look good for Solis. But not all is lost, because Cuba still has...

Yuriorkis Gamboa
Featherweight
Won 20 (16KOs)
Lost 0
Drawn 0

Not only is Yuriorkis Gamboa Cuba's best boxer, he also one of the most exciting fighters in the world. Twenty nine years old and undefeated after twenty fights, the unified IBF and WBA champion Gamboa is rightly regarded as one of the best pound for pound fighters around.

Gamboa is a fighter who is sure to pick up a hefty collection of belts before his career is out. He is already the WBA Super world champion, and many feel there is nothing left for him at featherweight. Gamboa may agree because he has a fight coming up against Mexican Super featherweight Daniel Ponce de Leon. It is a move up in weight class that will challenge Gamboa, but he should pull through. From there, a whole new division of conquests await.

In a boxing sense, Cuba is a mixed bag right now. They have one major prospect (Luis Garcia) and one superstar (Yuriorkis Gamboa). Their other prospects like Alexei Collado and Yunier Dortiscos could be good but have yet to be tested, whereas established Cuban fighters such as Yoan Pablo Hernandez and Odlanier Solis could enjoy success but will never be superstars. If I were to give any recommendations here, it would be to watch Luis Garcia's next fight. And the one after that, and the one after that....

Another closer look at..
Ghanaian Boxing

Some more prospects:
Gilberto Ramirez Sanchez
David Price