Women boxers striking a blow for equality in Cuba

11 June 2019 - 30   - 0

In the musty funk of a Havana boxing gym, Idamelys Moreno smacks a series of whomping right hooks into a heavy punching bag.

For the past four years, she has ripped it up in training to try to emulate dozens of Cuban men in winning Olympic boxing gold.

But she and other big-hitting women are punching not so much a glass ceiling as a glass wall: In Cuba, only men are allowed to compete in boxing tournaments.

"They haven't given us our chance," fumes Moreno, a muscular 27-year-old with burning ambition and a simmering frustration.

Ducking and feinting, her stance constantly shifts as she works her way around the swinging bag, the room resounding as her heavy blows dent its synthetic leather.

The island's boxing greats beam down from posters on the walls, among them three-time Olympic champion Teofilo Stevenson.

"She's a boxer with a lot of enthusiasm and enormous physical capacities, but she is nowhere near her full potential yet," said her coach Emilio Correa, who won Olympic silver in 2008 and World Championship gold in 2005.

Cubans are rightly proud of their unique boxing tradition which has brought a haul of 37 Olympic golds and 76 World Championship winner's medals -- all by men.

But featherweight Moreno -- whose haymaking right fist has been honed by sparring with men -- pleads: "If they'd give us the opportunity, we can also build on the medal collection that the men have won."

Moreno is not the only woman working the bags.

Taking turns to spar with her are Yuria Pascual, a 26-year-old biologist, and Ana Gasquez, a French woman who says she was drawn to Cuba by the mystique of its boxing tradition.

Ever ambitious, Moreno has set her sights on "a world and Olympic medal".

Pascual says: "If men can do it, why can't we?"


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