By Tom Degun

Antonio Castro 4May 26 - Antonio Castro, son of the former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, has predicted the country's boxers will be successful the professional ranks after it ended its draconian rule of over 50 years to stop fighters staying amateur.

Professional boxing was effectively banned in Cuba in 1962 because Fidel Castro regarded it as both corrupt and corrupting, while authorities there deemed it is too dangerous and unsafe.

The ban left amateur boxing to become 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 only the United States.

But with International Boxing Association (AIBA) looking to turn boxing at the Olympics professional by the next Games at Rio 2016, Cuba ended their ban in April this year as they signed up to season four of the World Series of Boxing (WSB), which is due to begin in November.

The WSB is currently the only competition in the world that allows boxers to fight professionally, without headguards, and still retain their Olympic eligibility.

The WSB will shortly link up with a new tournament - AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) - in another competition Cuba are set to sign up to.

"Boxing has always been one of the biggest sports in Cuba," Antonio Castro told insidethegames.

"We have been very strong in the sport at the Olympic Games for a long time.

"Now that there are changes to boxing at the Olympics with this new professional-style boxing, we are ready to adapt and I think we will continue our success.

"Going to the Olympics has always been the biggest goal of Cuban boxers and that will not change.

"I am sure that we will remain one of the strongest boxing nations at the Olympics through these changes."

Roniel IglesiasLight welterweight Roniel Iglesias was one of Cuba’s two boxing gold medallists at the London 2012 Olympic Games

Castro, a surgeon by profession, was chief medical officer for the Cuban Olympic team at London 2012 while he is also vice-president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) and helping spearhead the sport's bid to make the 2020 Olympics.

He met with AIBA President C K Wu earlier this year in Cuba to discuss the country joining the WSB and the APB and admitted he was impressed with plan.

"I like what the AIBA President has planned for boxing and his idea to make the sport professional at the Olympic Games," Castro said.

"He is a very smart man with a very clear idea of what he wants to do for his sport and Cuba is happy to be involved in the project."

In recent history, Cuba produced arguably the greatest Olympic boxer ever in heavyweight Teófilo Stevenson, who won three gold medals at three consecutive Games from 1972 to 1980, but never turned professional despite several huge offers.

At London 2012, the country claimed four boxing medals with flyweight Robeisy Ramírez and light welterweight Roniel Iglesias taking gold medals and bantamweight Lázaro Álvarez and lightweight Yasniel Toledo picking up bronze medals.

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