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“Cuba is a Mecca for boxers”

“Cuba is a Mecca for boxers” “Cuba is a Mecca for boxers”

Kevin Paulussen (21), first-year Biomedical Sciences student from the Netherlands

“I have always been fond of travelling, but I could never combine boxing with being away for a whole year,” says Kevin Paulussen. He is a first-year Biomedical Sciences student with a Top Sport status, boxing at a high level alongside his studies.  “At least that was until I met someone who was a trainer in Cuba, which is a real Mecca for boxers. They have an absolutely unique style and always have high rankings.”

Paulussen stayed in the country for ten months, returning in July of this year. “I learned so much during that time. Boxing is what football is over here. The Cubans have a good training system. It is very efficient and yields great results. Every trainer has a university degree. They also start very young. My first match was against a kid of about 13, 14. I left the ring with a black eye.”

People in the audience react differently than they do in the Netherlands. “They are more high-spirited. They all stand and shout, trainers would like nothing more than to get into the ring themselves. So much emotion. It took some getting used to, but I liked it a lot. Compared to that, the Netherlands is rather dull.”

During his stay, Paulussen lived with a host family in Havana. “Because of the communist system everyone has food and they can go to school and the doctor free of charge; nevertheless, living conditions are tough. The country is in decline, lots of things are broken. The food is bad, certainly for an athlete. They eat a lot of beans and rice. Vegetables are very expensive and meat contains more fat than anything else. All the good food goes to the tourists, who are the country's main source of income.”

Paulussen did not manage to play the tourist. “I did not have much free time. I was supposed to explore the country with my father, but when he came here I suffered from food poisoning. But I did travel a lot to take part in competitions.”

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