Boxing: Cuba to make professional debut with Mexico friendly

Cuba will take its first tentative steps into professional boxing next month with a friendly team competition against Mexico.

Cuba has created a team to take part in the professional World Series Boxing (WSB) tournament which is run by the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA).

Fighters who take part in the WSB competition are paid but do not lose their amateur status, allowing them to compete at the Olympics and other AIBA events.

Traditionally, communist Cuba has refused to allow its boxers to turn professional, insisting they compete for the glory of the nation by winning world and Olympic medals, rather than for their own financial gain in the paid ranks.

It has resulted in many talented Cuban boxers defecting from the tiny Caribbean island nation to turn professional by fighting out of other countries.

One of the most notable cases was three time world champion and Athens Olympic gold medallist Odlanier Solis or Guillermo Rigondeaux, a double Olympic and world champion, both of whom defected in 2007.

However, perhaps the greatest-ever Cuban boxer Felix Savon, the personal favourite of former Cuban president Fidel Castro, never quit his homeland and won three Olympic titles and five world crowns.

The new Cuba Domadores team was created last month and will challenge the Mexico Guerreros in Mexico City from August 29-30.

The Domadores (which means "tamers" in English) have replaced the British Lionhearts in the 12-team WSB competition after AIBA expelled the London-based squad over a row about funding.

Cuba will join Mexico as well as teams from Kazakhstan, the champions, Russia, Azerbaijan and Poland in Group B of the competition, which begins on November 15.

One change in the competition's rules will see teams doubled in size as the format adopts all 10 AIBA weight divisions, having previously used only five of them.

Teams play each other home and away throughout the regular season before the top four from each group qualify for the quarter-finals.