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Boxers fleeing Cuba seek freedom, fortune in Vegas

Boxers fleeing Cuba seek freedom, fortune in Vegas
Reported by: Amber Dixon Email: adixon@mynews3.com
Published: 2/25 6:24 am Share Updated: 2/25 9:40 am

LAS VEGAS (KSNV My News 3) – Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada said
of the 1,800 refugees it helps resettle each year in Las Vegas, 75
percent are Cuban.

Trained boxers are among the Cubans that move to Las Vegas, fleeing from
oppression, seeking freedom and drawn to a city where fighting is center
stage. They hope the sport will make them some money.

In 1992, Cuban boxer Joel Casamayor, won an Olympic Gold medal. In
return, the Cuban government gave him a bike.

“A Chinese bicycle,” said Cuban boxing historian Enrique Encinosa. “He
says, ‘Right then and there I understood, I had to get out.”

And Casamayor did, in 1996, while he was training in Mexico for the next
Olympics. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum helped.

“They were in Mexico, and we smuggled them out of Mexico,” said Arum.
“And he turned out to be a champion.”

But success is not the norm. New-found freedom and money can kill the dream.

“They’ve been deprived of the luxuries of life so long, they only read
about them,” said Arum. “They heard about them, and suddenly they’re
available to them, and they go absolutely nuts.”

“By the time he’s had three or four fights, he figures, ‘This is cake. I
don’t really have to train that hard, and I’ve got this money in my
pocket, and I have 22 of 24 hours in a day to screw around,’ and that’s
where a lot of them go off the rail,” said Encinosa.

Cuban boxing brothers Rances and Leduan Barthelemy fled Cuba, just like
their older brother, Olympic Gold medalist Yan Barthelemy. They chose to
live in Las Vegas, and now the boxing world is watching Rances.

Last year, he became the International Boxing Federation world super
featherweight champion. His journey to that point was filled with new
experiences, like going to the bank. “Finance, credit, numbers here,
numbers there, it was like a math class,” said Rances Barthelemy.

They also learned what Listerine was. “When I saw Listerine, it smelled
good like mint, and I started drinking it,” said Rances.

“Me too, when I opened it, I smelled it, and I said, ‘Wow, this smells
good,’ and I started putting it on like it was cologne,” said Leduan.

But behind these happy moments in the United States are some sad
memories of home. “Leaving them was hard,” said Leduan. “There were
times when I would cry at night because I needed the love of my mother
and of my brothers and sisters.”

“I left my sister when she was only 8 years old, and now she’s going to
high school, and I haven’t been able to see her grow, to touch her, to
hug her and to tell her how much I love her,” said Rances.

The pain of being apart, lessened by knowing that in at least in the
U.S., they can make money and send it to the loved ones they left behind.

“I don’t have words to explain how grateful I am to be living here,
because I can help my family,” said Rances.

There were several times during the interview with News 3 when an
adviser for the brothers interrupted, warning them to watch what they
said about Cuba. That’s because if the brothers one day want to return
to visit, the Cuban government must approve, said the adviser and
Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada.

The Cuban government reportedly monitors what high-profile refugees say
and do after they defect.

Those refugees typically must wait eight years before they can ask
permission from the government to return.

Source: Boxers fleeing Cuba seek freedom, fortune in Vegas – Las Vegas
MyNews3 – KSNV –
http://www.mynews3.com/content/news/story/boxers-las-vegas-cuba-freedom-arum-dixon/nVtoExJ4W0K1kpklZ0zhEQ.cspx

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