For the first time since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, Cuba will allow female boxers to participate in the sweet science after decades of restrictions.
Cuban officials with the National Institute for Sports (INDER) announced during a press conference Monday that women would be able to take part in official competitions.
Officials also revealed plans to hold a competition of 42 women boxers in mid-December to choose 12 athletes for a women’s team that would then make its international debut at the Central American and Caribbean Games in El Salvador.
“Women’s boxing in Cuba... is going to bring us to the international medal table,” said Ariel Saínz, vice president of INDER, during the press conference.
Despite being home to legendary male boxers such as Félix Savón, Teófilo Stevenson and Julio César La Cruz, Cuba was one of just a handful of countries affiliated with the International Boxing Association (IBA) that did not practice women’s boxing. The controversial restriction was particularly surprising given that women could compete in other combat sports such as taekwondo and wrestling.
Saínz noted that the equality gap between male and female competitors is slowly shrinking after Cuba introduced a set of regulations targeting discrimination against women and LGBTQ+ people in Cuba. This, in turn, helped pave the way for women to compete in boxing.
“We have a [law] now that assures equality between men and women,” Sainz said.