By Tom Degun

CK Wu Cuba 21January 31 - Cuba is ready to ditch a draconian rule preventing boxers turning professional which has lasted more than 50 years so they can sign up to join the International Boxing Association's (AIBA) World Series of Boxing (WSB) and AIBA Pro Boxing (APB).

Professional boxing was effecitvely banned in Cuba in 1962 because the country's former leader Fidel Castro regarded it as both corrupt and corrupting, while authorities there deemed it is too dangerous and unsafe.

But amateur boxing has been one of the most popular and successful sports in the Caribbean island in recent years, and the country is the second most successful boxing nation at the Olympic Games, with an incredible 67 medals, including 34 golds, behind the United States.

But with AIBA looking to turn the sport professional, Cuba looks set to changes its laws to allow fighters to compete in the WSB, which was launched in 2010, and the APB, which will debut later this year.

Both competitions allow fighters to compete professionally while retaining their Olympic eligibility.

The move appears close after AIBA President C K Wu (pictured top, left) travelled to the country this week with WSB chief operating officer Karim Bouzidi and APB managing director Benoit Giran.

In a two-day visit, Wu met with some of Cuba's highest authorities including Cuban Sports and Recreation Institute (INDER) President Christian Jiménez Molina (pictured top, centre) and Cuban Boxing Federation President Alberto Puig de la Barca (pictured top, right) and he now believes a deal is close.

"It has been a very productive visit where I have been able to explain to the authorities in Cuba exactly what the WSB and the APB is," Wu exclusively told insidethegames following the conclusion of the visit.

"To join up, Cuba would need to change their national policy but the meeting went very well and they are very interested in joining.

"There are still some final decisions to be made by Cuba on this but I am confident they will be joining to help the careers of their amateur boxers.

"Cuba is one of the strongest boxing nations in the world so to have them join the WSB and the APB would be a major step for us.

"We cannot say anything for definite, but they are set to internal discuss this and I think we are very close to a deal."

TeofiloCuba produced arguably the greatest Olympic boxer ever in heavyweight Teófilo Stevenson who won three gold medals at the Games but never turned professional despite huge offers

Securing Cuba in the WSB and APB would be a major boost for AIBA in its long-term ambition to stop the world's top boxers going to the traditional professional ranks as they would have access to a huge talent pool that is off limits to professional promoters.

However, Wu played down the fact that the move will have professional promoters worried.

"We are not after confrontation with professional promoters," he said.

"They have their own agenda and we have our own agenda.

"Our agenda is to offer a stable career for fighters after the Olympics and to allow them to compete professionally while also retaining their Olympic eligibility.

"But in the WSB and the APB, we obviously want the highest level of competition.

"Cuba will definitely increase that level of competition so we are in a very positive move after these discussions."

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