Sun, Aug 19, 2007 - Page 23 News List

Rigondeaux continues to train despite Cuban ban

AP , HAVANA

Cuban President Fidel Castro has decreed Guillermo Rigondeaux will never fight for Cuba again, but the island's top boxer said on Friday he is continuing to train in hopes he may be allowed to compete in next year's Beijing Olympics.

In an interview at his apartment, two-time Olympic bantamweight champion Rigondeaux said he still hopes Cuba's communist government will give him a second chance, but added that no top officials have visited him since he returned to Cuba on Aug. 5.

Rigondeaux and 2005 welterweight world champion Erislandy Lara abandoned the Cuban delegation during last month's Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Arrested and deported, they were briefly held in Cuban government guesthouses and then released to their families while their future is determined.

Both insist they never intended to defect, but a German promoter said they signed 5-year contracts and the Germany Embassy in Brazil reported they applied for visas.

Only three boxers -- Cubans Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon and Hugary's Lazlo Papp -- have won three Olympic titles.

Rigondeaux, who has a career record of 370 wins and 12 defeats, said he wants to join that distinguished list -- and, at 26 years old, believes he has a shot at becoming the first fighter to win four straight golds.

"I'm calmly waiting for the decision of my superiors," he said. "If they give me the opportunity to box, that's what I'll do and I will do it as well as always."

Rigondeaux said he is jogging, lifting weights, jumping rope and perfecting his punching until he is allowed back into a training ring.

He has repeatedly called his disappearance a moment of "great indiscipline."

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