by Jonny Stapleton
Michael Conlan may currently be Belfast best Olympic podium hope, but the capital of Irish boxing could lay claim to assisting a number of London 2012 boxing medallists, as the greatest amateur boxing team on the planet are set to base themselves in the City ahead of the games.
The Cuban boxing team are on the verge of following the Australian boxing team’s lead by selecting the famous pugilist city as its London 2012 training base.
The Cuban amateur set up is renowned as the best in the world and is noted for its professionalism and attention to detail so their selection of Belfast is a massive compliment to the City and boxing in Ireland as a whole.
Both the Cuban and Australia boxing team are said to have opted for Belfast after being impressed by the facilities available in Northern Ireland, but the Irish boxing teams success on the International stage would not have gone unnoticed by either.
A team which should boast 2011 world champions Lazaro Alvarez and Julio la Cruz amongst some other medal favourites are expected to train in Queen’s University PEC for two weeks in July.
Nothing is finalised as of yet but talks are at the advanced stage and Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin is said to make an announcement as early as next week.
Cuba has won more Olympic medals than any country that doesn’t compete in the Winter Olympics and of its 198 medals 63 have come from boxing- 32 gold 19 silver and 12 bronze.
Defection may have denied the Communist nation of the greatest amateur of all time Guillermo Rigondeaux, who is managed by Cork man Gary Hyde and last year beat Willie Casey in a WBA interim super bantamweight title fight, amongst other stars.
However they are still favourite to top the boxing medal charts and it seems Belfast could play a small part in their success.
Ireland already has some links to Cuban boxing. Former head of the Cuban Higher Institute for Physical Education, Nicholas Cruz Hernandez was instrumental in Wayne McCullough and Michael Carruth’s Barcelona 1992 medal success.
Also Cork based Cuban’s Luis Garcia, Mike Perez and Alexei Collado have all had medal winning success with their home nation before defecting to Ireland.