Filmmaker Brin-Jonathan Butler and his team are looking to raise $15K to support their film on the life and struggles of Cuban boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux. You can be a part of their success by helping them fund through Indiegogo. Check out the trailer and info below….
The boxer’s struggle in Cuba is the Cuban struggle. All Cubans struggle from birth and they see the boxer’s struggle as a metaphor for their own.
Fidel Castro banned professional sports in Cuba in 1962. His decree created a difficult choice for boxers—stay in Cuba and fight for national glory or defect to a country where their talents could make them rich. In the 70s Teofilo Stevenson won three Olympic gold medals and turned down five million dollars to defect from Cuba and fight Muhammad Ali, asking those promoters who made the offer, “What’s a million dollars compared to the love of eight million Cubans?”. In the 90s Felix Savon won another three Olympic gold medals and turned down tens of millions to travel to the US to fight Mike Tyson. What Fidel Castro was trying to use his boxers to prove was not just that his boxers were defeating Americans in the ring, but that Cuba and her system were defeating America itself, most noticeably in their sacrifice of financial reward for service to their country.
We meet Rigondeaux as a national hero, 243 fights with only four losses, two Olympic gold medals, captain of the Cuban team, numerous world championships and national championships. Rigondeaux is well on his way to becoming the greatest amateur fighter the world has ever seen. The Cuban state has looked after Rigondeaux following his victories, providing him and his family with a car and Havana home. At this point Rigondeaux feels his sacrifice deserves a greater reward.
In the summer of 2007, Guillermo Rigondeaux fails to show up for his scheduled bout at the Pan Am Games in Brazil. It’s announced that Rigondeaux is turning professional and joining his fellow Cuban Olympians Yan Barthelemy, Yuriorkis Gamboa and Odlandier Solis, who’d defected earlier in 2006. Following the lead of the previous Cuban defectors, Rigondeaux signs a promotional deal with Arena Box-Promotion. Then, on August 2nd 2007,Rigondeaux is taken into police custody in Brazil, pleading that he wants to return home to Cuba.
Upon his return, Fidel Castro states publicly Rigondeaux is a traitor to Cuba and the Cuban people and he will not box again for the Cuban team. His car is seized, his home under constant watch, all former teammates, coaches and friends are forbidden from contact with him. Teofilo Stevenson, Cuba’s most decorated champion speaks out against this publicly and defends Rigondeaux, pleading for his reinstatement to no avail. He’s banned from competing for a 3rd gold medal in Beijing. Rigondeaux, set adrift in the prime of his career, is held hostage by the state and banned from any possible return to boxing.
Secretly Rigondeaux engages in negotiations with foreign parties to arrange for his escape from Cuba and into the world of professional boxing at the cost of losing his wife and child and everything he’s ever known with little or no prospect of ever being able to return.
February 2009, Rigondeaux risks his life to defect with smugglers via Mexico City, into the waiting arms of Miami exiled-Cuban promoters. A legal battle between his Irish manager Gary Hyde and the Miami promoters begins for control of Rigondeaux’s career before it even has a chance to begin. Rigondeaux’s career stalls as the power struggle over his career persists. He is nearly 30 when the issues are resolved and he finally signs a contract with Bob Arum, the largest boxing promoter in the world.
Rigondeaux discovers that the biggest obstacle to his career’s success lies in the fact that the 95% non-black exiled-Cuban community in Florida offer no support of black Cuban fighters. As Bob Arum points out, “Cuban Olympic champions can’t sell out the front row of a dancehall in Miami.”
Shortly after signing his contract in April of 2010, Rigondeaux is nearly knocked out while sparring in Los Angeles with a very limited youthful amateur. He promptly severs ties with his trainer, Freddie Roach, and returns to Miami. From his corner, Roach chillingly points out, “Someone was exposed here today.” At the most important moment of his life, Rigondeaux stands on the brink of either a championship or total professional and personal collapse. After 6 successful fights, Bob Arum steps forward to offer a contract to Gary Hyde, dangling a title shot. If he wins, the American dream could still come true for Rigondeaux. If he loses, he could become just another defector from Cuba who’s lost everything in search of that dream. Like nearly all the defected Cuban fighters who came before him, the biggest opponent Rigondeaux faces is coping with American life. Every time he steps into battle in an American ring, Rigondeaux wears the flag of the nation he has left behind on his trunks. Just what Cuba he is fighting for remains a mystery.
Support the film here: Split Decision: The Guillermo Rigondeaux Story | Indiegogo.