Cuba relents on pro boxing ban; will join league

Published: Saturday, Apr. 27, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 7C

Cuba is breaking a five-decade ban on professional boxing and joining an international semipro league. Fighters will compete for sponsored teams, box without protective headgear and earn $1,000 to $3,000 a month.

The country has a long and storied boxing tradition and is usually a force at international amateur tournaments.

This move represents a big step for the island's communist authorities, who long ago decided pro sports were not in keeping with Marxist social ideals.

The new format, the World Series of Boxing, consists of 12 squads from around the world that meet in a series of five fights using a point system similar to the pros.

The World Series of Boxing is organized by the International Boxing Association known as AIBA. The competition will begin in November.

In addition to the salaries, boxers in the series can make $500 to $2,000 bonuses, although it's not immediately clear how, or how much, the Cubans will be paid.

• In a bout at least eight months in the making, Jon Jones (17-1) will defend his light heavyweight championship for a fifth time when he fights Chael Sonnen (28-12-1) at UFC 159 today in Newark, N.J.

Nadal wins two; advances to Barcelona semifinals

• Seven-time winner Rafael Nadal won back-to-back matches to advance to the semifinals of the Barcelona Open. After rain forced several third-round matches to be pushed back, Nadal started the day by beating Benoit Paire of France 7-6 (2), 6-2. The fifth-ranked Spaniard then defeated Albert Ramos 6-3, 6-0.

Nadal will face Milos Raonic today after the Canadian outlasted Tommy Robredo 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (2).

• Top-seeded Maria Sharapova posted a hard-earned 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Ana Ivanovic to advance to the semifinals of the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany. Sharapova will meet third-seeded Angelique Kerber, a 6-3, 7-6 (2) winner over Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan.

General

• Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby has returned to practice, but his status for next week's playoff opener remains uncertain. Crosby hasn't played since breaking his jaw last month. He took part in non-contact drills, wearing a protective facemask that he'll likely keep on for the postseason's duration.

• Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel and horses Housebuster, Invasor, Lure, McDynamo and Tuscalee have been elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

• The U.S. Olympic Committee is talking to 10 cities about a possible bid for the 2024 Summer Games, including a joint proposal from San Diego and Mexican neighbor Tijuana. USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun said a joint bid can work in some geographical areas, citing the Bay Area and the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose as a "natural" possibility.

• Notre Dame will host Arizona State at Cowboys Stadium on Oct. 5. That game is part of the school's "Shamrock Series" in which the Fighting Irish play home games in different parts of the country.

– Associated Press

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