Sport on TV: Castro may spoil for a fight but his boxers aren't spoilt at all

Cuba has a proud and prolific boxing tradition, and for a small island they certainly punch above their weight. In the national academy, alongside giant posters of its great exponents of the noble art, hangs the image of Fidel Castro himself, the "champion of champions". For a man who spent 40 years giving the United States a bloody nose, it seems a fair title.

Boxing's tale of the tape is usually one of saving street urchins from a life of crime. In Kidult: Cuban Punch-Up (BBC4, Wednesday) the 11-year-old boxers at the Havana City Academy are fighting for a shot at Olympic glory but they are also prepared to go back out on the streets and fight in a different way. When Castro handed over power to his brother Raul in 2006 due to poor health, the boys were glued to his speech on TV. Cristian Martinez says that if the USA invades during this time of weakness, "we'll run out to defend our country".

As Castro himself intones: "The revolution must concentrate on sport. It is of vital importance to the country." But the sweet science is more than just nationalism, it's part of the fabric of existence in the communist state. "Cuban boxers fight for a better future," says Cristian, while his colleague Junior declares: "We Cubans are fighting from the moment we are born."

They seem to accept from an early age that life is one long, hard slugfest. They know they've got little chance of Havana cake and eating it, and wisdom has come early despite getting their ears boxed on a regular basis. Little Cristian is known as the "old man", his coach Yosvani saying, "Comrade Cristian is 70 years old and he's in the Under-12s".

They may dream of Olympic gold at London 2012, but they cannot contemplate the megabucks that would come from going professional after the Games – surely a crucial incentive in many of boxing's rags to riches stories – because to defect and fight in the United States would be a betrayal of the revolution.

Cristian's father Luis Felipe Martinez is a case in point. After winning a bronze medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, he became a national hero and was given a house and car by the government. But the car broke down and the house is now dilapidated and the 55-year-old, who looks much older, is in a similar state. But while this may seem sad, it could be that capitalists like us just don't understand.

If you can duck and weave your way past the political dogma, Cuba's boxers present a curiously pure perspective in a world of sport that has become tainted by filthy lucre – none more so than the kids. Luis Felipe predicts his son will be better than him, and Yosvani says he will be champion of the world. You wouldn't argue with either of them.

* Here's a few alternative awards from the Cricket World Cup. Most surprising lucky beggar: Sachin Tendulkar, dropped four times by Pakistan in the semi-final. Most diminished legend: Muttiah Muralitharan, standing behind a mascot who was taller than him during the national anthem. Craziest looking pundit: Ajit Agarkar, with his eyes as big as saucers. And greatest Delhi belly weight loss: Paul Allott in the Sky Sports studio, and he didn't even go to the subcontinent. Perhaps we should call him Paul Not Allott.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Recruitment Resourcer / Recruitment Account Manager

£20 - 25k + Bonus: Guru Careers: Are you a Recruitment Consultant looking to m...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'