Olympic boxing champion Andy Cruz was arrested when he tried to escape from Cuba by sea

Some sources said the Cuban boxer was in the Dominican Republic. The Olympic champion of Athens 2004 in javelin, Osleidys Menéndez, confirms she left the island and is in Miami

El cubano Andy Cruz. EFE/José Méndez
El cubano Andy Cruz. EFE/José Méndez

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion and three-time world champion, Andy Cruz, never left Cuba and was arrested by local authorities when he tried to leave the island illegally by sea.

A digital platform in the United States dedicated to Cuban boxing had announced a week ago the award-winning boxer had left Cuba for the Dominican Republic, an event that was quickly reproduced in numerous international sports venues.

A few hours ago, the Cuban Boxing Federation denied it by confirming Cruz had participated “in an attempt to leave the country illegally” without going into details of the operation carried out by the Cuban police.

As is customary in these cases, the sports authorities described the failed escape of the athlete as “serious indiscipline”, who will be subject “to the corresponding analysis.”

Cruz had been crowned at the Hamburg 2017, Ekaterinburg 2019 and Belgrade 2021 World Championships. The boxer, a native of Matanzas province, was also a gold medalist at the Toronto 2015 and Lima 2019 Pan American Games.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Boxing - Men's Lightweight - Medal Ceremony - Kokugikan Arena - Tokyo, Japan - August 8, 2021. Gold medallist Andy Cruz of Cuba poses for photos. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Boxing - Men's Lightweight - Medal Ceremony - Kokugikan Arena - Tokyo, Japan - August 8, 2021. Gold medallist Andy Cruz of Cuba poses for photos. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

The career of Cruz, considered by many as the best Cuban boxer today, seemed to take an unexpected turn more than a month ago when he was excluded from the national team that participated in a professional card in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

That meeting would mark the debut of the Cuban boxers governed by the state-run Cuban Sports Institute (Inder) in boxing for rent after Fidel Castro eliminated professional sports in Cuba in 1962.

Cruz’s absence from that team to Aguascalientes sparked speculation on social networks that agreed that the cause of his exclusion was his possible intention to leave Cuba for the United States.

Cuban boxing officials argued Cruz’s separation was temporary and was due to “performance and attitude issues in the gym.”

Cruz himself, supported by the official media, tried to deny those rumors of his possible desertion with a message in which he assured that he was training hard for the national championship in Camagüey starting June 20 while waiting for his debut in the circuits.

But Cruz was surprised by not making the trip to Camaguey, while his departure from Cuba began to spread on social networks, which has just been officially denied.

Several sources within Cuba have assured that Cruz has been returned to his home, in the province of Matanzas, by the authorities after his escape attempt, apparently through an area in the extreme northeast of the island.

At the same time, it has become known that the Athens 2004 world and Olympic champion, Osleydis Menéndez, javelin world record holder from 2001 to 2008, has arrived in the United States to stay after having crossed the southern border with Mexico, as confirmed by alternative Cuban media.

Menéndez, world champion in Edmonton 2001 and Helsinki 2005, and the first woman in 2001 to cross the 70-meter barrier, is now in Miami after completing a dangerous migratory adventure that began in Nicaragua, a Central American route faced by hundreds of Cubans in the last months.

Menéndez, the first Spanish-speaking woman to set a world record in athletics, is one of the glories of Cuban sports. She was also champion at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg 1999 and Rio de Janeiro 2007. She was the flag bearer of the Cuban sports delegation to the Pan American Games in Santo Domingo in 2003.

The bleeding of important exponents of Cuban sports, both active and retired, continues to worry the national fans after the most recent cases of Cruz and Menéndez.

Other Olympic champions have defected to Mexico so far this year, the Rio 2016 monarch, Greco-Roman wrestler Ismael Borrero, and Tokyo canoe champion Fernando Dayán Jorge.

In Spain, former weightlifter Pablo Lara, Olympic champion in Atlanta 1996 and runner-up in Barcelona 1992, left a delegation, for many the best Cuban weightlifter in history.