THE BLOG
11/02/2016 10:53 GMT | Updated 11/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Hit and Hope: Boxing in Cuba

Whilst on my recent travels in Cuba I utilised the opportunity to explore the culture and investigate some of their fundamental differences. After all what makes me tick, is knowing what makes people tick. In doing this we can readily learn what principles work for a nation and of course those which may be better discarded.

As a martial arts worshipper something I found fascinating whilst on the island, with a population of around 11 million (the same amount as the city of London alone), was the buzz around the sport of boxing. I mean they were literally obsessed with it and not without due cause, as they are indeed such a humbly dominant force in the boxing world. With a nation of impecunious inhabitants you can't help but visualise the Rocky Balboa style of underdog story and having visited some of the gyms this is not too far away from the truth.

First introduced into Havana in 1909 the sport has suffered repeatedly at the mercy of political decision to ban, reintroduce and finally control the sport, yet through this the country remained a strong driving force. Between 1972 and today Cuba has won 32 Gold medals in boxing and all of this despite boycotting the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. Cuban boxers were in fact reported by the BBC to be the 'most successful in the history of amateur boxing'. Sadly Fidel Castro banned professional boxing in 1962 making the decision to become a world champion tough, as it would mean deserting the country without the option of return.

Loyal to Cuba's Revolution the late Teofilo Stevenson, 3 times gold medallist, made history when he refused millions to fight Muhammad Ali, stating that maintaining the affection of 'millions of Cubans' held more value to him. The same again with Felix Savon, 3 times gold medallist, refusing to take millions to fight Mike Tyson but instead return to poverty stating; 'we fought for an ideal, to defend our country'.

Could this lack of financial motivation be a critical factor in determining their strength within the sport? From my perspective as a psychologist I can confirm that there is certainly a direct correlation between your 'why' and your results. A distinct difference between attempting to make it happen with insatiable financial goals and the belief that the hopes and dreams of millions rest upon your performance.

Politics to one side it is widely accepted that there is more strength in a plight when the answer is beyond the needs of oneself, as we have consistently seen from the Cuba. In order to apply this invaluable principle to your own career within fighting or equally toward other life skills my advice would be to establish clearly the reasons you intend to succeed and how they will benefit others. If it is finances that's fine but take the time to note how they can benefit those around you and so forth.

Meanwhile I sit and patiently wait for the inevitable day that Cuba enters the mainstream world of boxing and look forward to seeing what they can offer the scene.