So I just got back from Cuba.
It’s been on my bucket list for a long time. Old cars, Cohibas, salsa, playas, La Revolucion – it’s a country with an exotic mystique about it.
Part of Cuba’s allure probably also comes from it’s stormy place in world history. Pretty much cut off from the western world, the country has suffered at the hands of a trade embargo for decades.
As a result, Cuba seems to be stuck in a time capsule. While pretty much every country on Planet Earth now looks identical (Mcdonalds, Starbucks, and H&M on every high street), Cuba is different. They don’t even have wifi.
But Cuban people are no different to anyone else. They love all the same things we love, including sports.
Along with baseball, boxing is a national passion. It seemed that every other guy we met was a national champion (shout out to Elvis, who wanted a prizefight with me in Old Havana, but ducked my friend because he thought he was too heavy for him!!).
For decades, Cuba has produced some of the finest technicians in the world, dominating Olympics and world championships. Despite competition from larger, better equipped, richer nations, the Cubans have managed to reign supreme on the world stage. Most modern boxing fans will know the names Rigondeaux, Casamayor, Lara, and Gamboa, to name a few.
One of the main things I wanted to do in Havana was visit a boxing gym – a real, old school, shrine to boxing. We found the famous Rafael Trejo gym.
On the day we visited, it was raining, and because the gym is outside, none of the boxers turned up to train.
Disappointing, but what can you do?
Instead we simply walked around taking pics and vids.
The facilities were completely threadbare. There was no air conditioning, no carpet, nothing swanky at all. The ring apron itself was made of wood with floorboards sticking out of it.
How anybody actually sparred in there is beyond me.
About 20 minutes into our visit, a boxer finally walked in. It was Emilio Correa.
Correa was 2007 Pan American champion, and middleweight silver medallist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics (out-pointed by Britain’s own James Degale.)
He was the only one who showed up that morning.
He warmed up and made his way to the back, where he proceeded to train in the most grimy weightlifting gym I’ve ever seen.
As you can see, the gym is rustic as f*ck. But there he was, getting it in.
From a ‘scientific standpoint’, the training he was doing was probably not ‘ideal’ (he was doing ‘chest and arms’).
Sometimes, however, science doesn’t mean jack.
Even when the circumstances and environment were barely decent, he did what he had to do without excuses.
Correa is not alone though. The other Cuban champions have been without luxuries too.
There’s a lesson there for every time we give ourselves stupid excuses. These guys have reached such a high level because of their commitment and consistency. They succeed in spite of their handicaps.
The below is not my footage, but just look at how long Correa takes doing footwork and co-ordination drills. These are small details most people don’t pay attention to, but he does it with real purpose.
These guys are dedicated to their craft, and that’s why they wipe the floor with the rest of the world when it comes to championships.