Defecting Cuban boxers' pro debut stymied by visa trouble

Three Olympic champion Cuban boxers who defected and signed seven-figure contracts with a German promoter have been refused entry to the United States, their manager said on Wednesday.

Heavyweight Odlanier Solis, flyweight Yan Bhartelemy and featherweight Yuriorkis Gamboa were scheduled to make their professional debuts in Miami on Friday but the fights were postponed a week, said Antonio Gonzalez, their Miami-based manager and attorney.

He said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security approved entry for the three but consular officials at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota wouldn't grant them visas. The trio entered Colombia from bordering Venezuela in late December.

Gonzalez said the embassy wants proof the three boxers, who won gold medals in the 2004 Athens Games, have applied for permanent residency in Germany but that the three so far lack German visas.

"The State Department still sees it as them wanting to stay in the States, which at this point would be career suicide for them," Gonzalez said by telephone from Miami.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Suzanne Hall said the State Department does not comment on individual cases.

"They have bank accounts in Hamburg, Germany. They have an actual address in Hamburg where they'll be living," Gonzalez said. "The first part of the contract is their debut would be in Miami for obvious reasons."

Gonzalez said each of the three fighters had signed seven-figure, three-year contracts with Hamburg-based First Artist and Arena with an option for two more years. That doesn't count purses, reports AP.

All three were training with the Cuban national team in Venezuela when they defected to Colombia, which granted them temporary visas, said Irichelle Duran, daughter of the boxer Roberto Duran, who works with Gonzalez.

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