MIAMI Feb 23 Cuban boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux,
a two-time Olympic gold medalist who fell into disfavor with
the Cuban government after trying to desert the national team
two years ago, has defected, a boxing promoter said on Monday.
Rigondeaux, the bantamweight champion at the 2000 and 2004
Olympics, is in Miami and has signed a contract with ARENA
Box-Promotion, the fight promoter said in a written statement.
Rigondeaux, 28, was dropped from the Cuban squad for the
Beijing Olympics in August after running afoul of Cuban
authorities when he and teammate Erislandy Lara failed to turn
up for scheduled bouts at the Panamerican Games in Rio de
Janeiro in July 2007.
The two were soon located by Brazilian police, who said the
boxers regretted their decision and wanted to return to Cuba.
Then-Cuban leader Fidel Castro blamed the United States for
the attempted defections, saying the two had betrayed their
country for money.
Cuba is an Olympic boxing superpower and has produced great
fighters like Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon, both of whom
resisted rich offers from American promoters.
Cuba won five of 11 gold medals at the Athens Olympics in
2004 but was soon hammered by a string of defections, including
those of former world welterweight champion Lara, who fled to
Mexico last year, and Athens heavyweight champion Odlanier
Solis. Both signed professional contracts with Germany-based
(Reporting by Jim Loney; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Bill