Country of boxing and training ground of the French team

“It was a wonderful boxing evening.” Alberto Puig de La Barca smiled modestly on the morning of Saturday, April 6, on the steps of the Brisas del Caribe hotel in Varadero, one of Cuba’s most popular seaside resorts. The night before, the president of the Cuban Boxing Federation did not try to hide his joy: eight fights between part of the Cuban national team and boxers from the French team and eight victories for Cuba. All were taken “by unanimous decision” by the all-Cuban judges of this rather unusual tournament.

This clear score will not affect either side’s chances of qualifying for the Olympic Games (from July 26 to August 11), as the competition is not on the international competition calendar. It was primarily about assessing the fitness of the athletes at the end of a two-week training camp and, for Cuba, a celebration of a very popular and medal-winning sport.

Since its introduction at the Summer Games in 1904, amateur boxing has produced 78 Olympic medals for the Caribbean island, including 41 gold. “Cuba is the land of boxers, it is where great champions are born,” said French boxer Sofiane Oumiha, three-time world lightweight champion and silver medalist at the Rio Games, and the star attraction of this “boxing gala” alongside the Cuban double Olympian To play. champions Arlen Lopez and Julio Cesar La Cruz.

Les Bleus underwent a medical examination at the Brisas del Caribe hotel in Varadero on April 5, 2024, before participating in a tournament. Les Bleus underwent a medical examination at the Brisas del Caribe hotel in Varadero on April 5, 2024, before participating in a tournament.

‘We box instinctively’

“They are very technical and very skilled boxers. It shows us where we stand. They have a special style, very dynamic,” said the Toulouse native after his shortened training due to a neck cramp at the end of the camp. . “With the opening of Cuban boxing to professional competition (professional sports had long been banned by the Castro regime), we now have more hitters, which creates a great mix.”

“Cuba has dominated the world of men’s amateur boxing for years, although new countries are emerging, such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, not to mention strong countries such as the USA and Brazil,” said Malik Bouziane, the French national coach and head of the French Football Federation. men’s program, who visited the training camp together with two other coaches and a physiotherapist. “High-level boxing is all about anticipation and direct counter-attacking. But here we box instinctively. It allows us to work on our adaptability.” It is an ideal context for the French national team to sharpen their Olympic preparations and move towards the intermediate goal of the European Championships, from April 15 to 29 in Belgrade.

The French boxing team starts training. The French boxing team starts training.

Accustomed to training camps in Cuba as a boxer and coach, Bouziane also had to adapt. These two-week sessions, where each team trains separately but comes together for practice fights, were traditionally held in Havana, at Cuban boxing’s two most iconic sporting venues: the Finca for the men’s elite and the Estadio Panamericano for the youth fighters. But this involved a lot of bus travel.

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