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The next Kid Chocolate: Boxing in Havana

The next Kid Chocolate: Boxing in Havana

Mens sana in corpore sano—a sound mind in a healthy body—is a slogan that is much used when providing the most complete education possible to children in Cuba. From the very moment they enter grammar school, children are encouraged by the school to practice a specific sport apart from taking physical education. The various kinds of physical activity promote the physical development and well-being of the children.

At school, children are introduced to traditional major sports, but clearly there is preference for sports that come from the culture and traditions of the country. Cuba, like any other nation in the world, has its “star” sports, so to speak, and these are baseball and boxing. Both have left their mark on the international stage with names that represent milestones in sports history. The love for boxing and the performance of its boxers is so great, that it was no wonder that Cuba was chosen to hold the first World Amateur Championship in Havana, in 1974. Names like Kid Chocolate, Cuba’s first world professional boxing champ, or Teófilo Stevenson, who won all the Olympics and world championships in which he took part, or Felix Savón, another star boxer who also fascinated the crowds, are inspirations to many would-be boxers today.

Boxing is so popular among the young ones that gyms have sprouted throughout the country in every municipality, with specialized trainers who hold bachelor degrees in exercise and sport sciences. These local gyms are the natural place for scouting for future athletes. The children who prove to have a special talent for a specific sport will go on to sports schools at the elementary and middle levels, EIDE and ESPA, respectively.

But before these children decide to tackle something serious, the Rafael Trejo gym in Old Havana offers them a place where they can give free rein to their youthful vitality. Not all of the kids who come to this gym are driven by the desire to become fighters in the future or to embrace the sports world as a profession. Many come here for fun, pure and simple—the fun of learning the moves or giving a few punches like their boxing idols.

Although now getting into the boxing ring may just be wholesome recreation for these children, as with any type of systematic physical activity (including physical education at schools), it helps to lay the foundations in youngsters for long-term health and improved quality of life, providing them from an early age with discipline and notions of organized life.

September 2012

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