Cuban defector arrives in Germany to turn pro

Updated: June 12, 2008, 6:01 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Cuban amateur boxing star Erislandy Lara arrived Thursday in Germany, where he will turn pro after fleeing his home country.

Lara, a 25-year-old welterweight, tried to defect from Cuba along with two-time Olympic gold medalist Gulliermo Rigondeaux during last July's Pan-American Games in Brazil, but was arrested and sent back to Cuba.

He left Cuba on a speedboat to Mexico, where he received a provisional passport on Tuesday before arriving in Hamburg, according to Arena-Box Promotion, the German promoter he will fight for.

"It feels great to be in Germany," Lara said in a statement. "I don't want to talk about the details of my escape. I am just glad to be here and I am looking forward to turning professional and becoming champion of the world."

"It is better not to talk about the defection itself," added Arena-Box chief Ahmet Íner. "We don't want to endanger anybody. Unfortunately, the communist regime in Cuba still puts a lot of pressure to different people. It's about time that things change in Cuba and that they finally accept and respect human rights."

Arena-Box also promotes heavyweight Odlanier Solis, junior lightweight Yuriorkis Gamboa and bantamweight Yan Barthelemy, a trio of 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalists who defected in late 2006.

Lara, who won three consecutive Cuban national amateur titles from 2005 to 2007, was the 2005 world amateur welterweight champion. He was a favorite for gold at the Beijing Olympics until he was arrested last year in Brazil, which resulted him being removed from the Cuban national team.

Lara is scheduled to turn pro July 4 in Istanbul, Turkey, on the undercard of the vacant European heavyweight title match between Sinan Samil Sam and Paolo Vidoz. Also on that card is Solis' fight with former heavyweight contender Francois Botha.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.