Steve Bunce on Boxing: Odlanier Solis is the latest in a long line of Cuban champions who get lost in the pro game

Odlanier Solis’s defeat to the 42-year-old Tony Thompson looks to have ended his world title hopes

Last Saturday in Istanbul a fat heavyweight called Odlanier Solis added his name to a sad list of great Cuban boxers who have defected, promised so much and miserably failed.

During the last 20 years the top Cuban boxers, enticed by lies and outrageous promises, have been climbing over fences and occasionally dressing as women to abscond from the country and claim political asylum. However, their cries for freedom have mostly been insincere.

Solis is just 33 and was a brilliant Olympic champion, but on Saturday he fought like a man who had fallen out of love with his chosen sport and lost on points to a 42-year-old American called Tony Thompson in Istanbul. Thompson started the fight like he knew he was the designated loser and seemed shocked that he was still standing after six rounds.

If Solis had won and looked good, he would have been an important member of a small group of leading heavyweights poised to replace the ageing Wladimir Klitschko, who will surely follow his brother Vitali into retirement in the next 12 months. The group also stands to make millions in world title fights when the belts fall vacant. Solis has lost out and will struggle to get back into the mix, and his promoter Ahmet Oner’s history of screaming at people will not help the negotiating process.

Solis and two other Cuban Olympic champions went missing at a training camp in Venezuela in 2006, escaped through Colombia and sought temporary sanctuary in Miami. They were not, to tell the truth, three desperate and innocent young men making a break for the border in search of freedom and all that democracy delivers.

The trio were simply following a dozen other top Cuban boxers, most Olympic or world amateur champions, who had been touched up by promoters from Germany, America and Ireland. Solis eventually came under the control of the extrovert Oner and started to box in Germany: in spying terms, he had been turned.

The problem with the very best Cuban amateur boxers is that they have absolutely no idea how to deal with the freedom, the excesses and the levels of greed that their new life contains. Solis has been a classic failure, in a constant battle with the fridge throughout his career. As an amateur he won three consecutive world titles, including his first in Belfast in 2001, when he stopped David Haye in the final.

Solis did have a world title opportunity in 2011 when he met Vitali for the WBC heavyweight belt but, after two minutes and 58 seconds of touching, feeling and feinting, he collapsed in agony when his left knee buckled. The fight was over, his fluctuating weight was blamed and Oner, who had survived an assassin’s bullets in 2009, continued to insult the Klitschko brothers.

The two other Olympic champions who came in from the boxing cold with Solis on that Venezuelan night also turned professional with Oner; Yuriorkis Gamboa did win a world title and is still unbeaten, but Yan Bartelemi has not fought for two years after losing three of his 15 fights. Gamboa is reckoned the bad boy of Cuban boxing, partnering up with Mike Tyson for wild Las Vegas benders.

In total, four of Cuba’s five gold medal winners in Athens 10 years ago went over the wall and turned professional; the fifth, Mario Kindelan, beat a 17-year-old Amir Khan in the final and retired the next year.

Solis, meanwhile, will need a lot more than just one win to get back anywhere near boxing’s big money and the big lad must first decide if he really wants to be a boxer or if it is time finally to break free and live a normal life.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Emily McDowell Card that reads:
artCancer survivor Emily McDowell kicks back at the clichés
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvBadalamenti on board for third series
Life and Style
Standing room only: the terraces at Villa Park in 1935
Ben Stokes celebrates with his team mates after bowling Brendon McCullum
sportEngland vs New Zealand report
Amal Clooney has joined the legal team defending 'The Hooden Men'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine