Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fighting in the U.S. Is Big Chance for Cuban Defectors

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fighting in the U.S. Is Big Chance for Cuban Defectors

Article excerpt

In a sweltering warehouse no wider than the boxing ring against the back wall, a boom box blares Caribbean dance music to the beat of a punching-bag workout.

For Ramon Garbey, this is the sound of liberty.

"Here in the United States," he shouts over the noise in Spanish, "you can do anything you want. You can dedicate yourself to your profession." The makeshift gym in suburban Miami serves as a base for Garbey and other members of Team Freedom - 11 boxers and two trainers, all Cuban defectors. Two of the fighters live in Las Vegas, but the other nine train here. Among the most talented are Garbey and Joel Casamayor, who left the Cuban Olympic team in June and made their professional debuts Friday in Miami. Freedom has its price, and Garbey and Casamayor received $25,000 bonuses to sign with Main Events Inc. Each will make $10,000 for his first bout. With one U.S. check in the bank, Garbey already sounds like a capitalist. "Money," he says, "is the only thing that solves problems in the entire world." Garbey and Casamayor, both 25, quickly addressed the problem of transportation. Garbey drives to workouts in a new Mitsubishi Eclipse, while Casamayor chose a Ford Thunderbird. Whose car is faster? Garbey's scarred face breaks into a grin. "For me, both are very fast," he says, "because neither one of us had a car before." Paychecks could quickly grow for both fighters. Each has the potential to become the best in his weight division and will be heavily favored Friday. Garbey faces Kerry Parks of Fort Myers. Casamayor fights Javier Garcia of Tampa. Both bouts are scheduled for four rounds. Garbey, a light heavyweight at 175 pounds, compiled an amateur record of 360-27 and hopes eventually to fight IBF super middleweight champion Roy Jones Jr. Casamayor, a lightweight who weighs 130, went 330-30 and is said to resemble Sugar Ray Leonard. …

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