Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How Castro's Doctrine Denied Mario Millions; Mario Kindelan's Final Fight Is against Amir Khan Tomorrow Yet, at 34, He Still Lives in a House with No Hot Water. David Smith Discovers Why

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How Castro's Doctrine Denied Mario Millions; Mario Kindelan's Final Fight Is against Amir Khan Tomorrow Yet, at 34, He Still Lives in a House with No Hot Water. David Smith Discovers Why

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID SMITH

ALTHOUGH Amir Khan is brimming with confidence ahead of his clash with Mario Kindelan in Bolton tomorrow, Britain's new boxing sensation is facing mission impossible. The 18-year-old has fuelled pre-fight hype by insisting he now possesses the strength and skill to beat his Olympic conqueror at the third time of asking.

Yet a study of the history of Cuban boxing confirms there can be only one result when a comparative novice goes up against a 33-year-old veteran generally acknowledged to be the best pound-for-pound exponent of the amateur discipline.

It is no fluke that since 1968, Cuba has won 89 Olympic boxing medals - 32 gold, including two for Kindelan, 30 silver and 27 bronze.

Shannon Briggs, once a top American amateur who later lost to Britain's Lennox Lewis in a world heavyweight title challenge, was 19 and giving away five years' experience when he fought Cuban Felix Savon, then still a legend in the making, at the 1991 Pan-Am Games.

Briggs recalled: "I'll give Savon his credit, he won. But I think he took advantage of the system. He was a man fighting kids.

"That's the case with a lot of these Cuban fighters. They're 28, 29, 30 fighting kids 19, 20, 21. That's a big advantage physically and mentally."

Kindelan comes to his final fight - 34 is the maximum age for amateurs and he turns that age in August - having lost just 21 of his 359 bouts.

He remains unbeaten since 2001.

So if he is that good, why did he never turn pro? After all, Sugar Ray Leonard and Evander Holyfield both offered him $1million ([pounds sterling]540,000) to turn professional.

"I thanked them, but money cannot buy what I have," he said.

So what does he have? In Cuba one of the greatest lightweights ever lives in a humble house with no running hot water. There are none of the trappings enjoyed by the successful professionals because, by dint of a national decree signed by President Fidel Castro in 1962, professional sports are banned in Cuba.

"Professional sports enrich the few at the expense of the many," said Castro, Cuba's communist leader.

But some have found it impossible to accept Castro's doctrine. …

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