A One-Two Punch Rocks Cuba
The recent defections of 1992 Olympic bantamweight champion Joel Casamayor and world amateur light heavyweight champion Ramón Garbey were a startling setback for Cuba. The men who fought for Alcides Sagarra, the gravel-voiced autocrat who for 32 years has been lord and master of the mighty Cuban team, have always been different from other Cuban athletes—more restrained, always sure to toe the party line. While the rest of the nation's sports machine has spent the four years since the Barcelona Games futilely battling a defection epidemic, the hard-line Sagarra had kept his elite program intact, his boxers seemingly loyal to Fidel Castro's regime and immune to the temptations of the pro fight game. His team won seven golds at the '92 Olympics and four at the '95 world championships, and while no one expected quite such domination in Atlanta, Cuba has remained amateur boxing's premier power. Sagarra has even admitted to dreaming of "the highest level yet": winning 12 Olympic gold medals.
Now that dream is less likely to become reality. While some second-tier fighters had defected in the past, Sagarra had never lost an international champion who was in his prime. But now he has lost two. Casamayor was considered one of the gold medal favorites in Atlanta at 125 pounds, and Garbey was a top contender at 178. For two of Sagarra's fighters to defect on the eve of the competition Cubans hold most sacred is a crushing propaganda blow, a sign that disgust with the Castro regime has infiltrated even the most rigidly monitored of groups.
There is only one precedent: In 1991 pitcher René Arocha defected on the eve of the Pan Am Games in Havana, sparking a string of departures by Cuban baseball stars that shattered the solidarity of the team. There's a good chance that Casamayor's and Garbey's defections will have a similar impact on the country's boxing program.
More than two years after SI revealed that sports agents and wouldbe agents had treated Florida State football players to a $5,900 shopping spree at a Tallahassee Foot Locker (SI, May 16, 1994), the scandal has apparently come to a close. Raul Bey, a Las Vegas businessman and wannabe agent who arranged and bankrolled the spree, was sentenced last week to pay a $12,000 fine and serve one year in jail. Florida circuit judge Ralph Smith, who said he assessed $10,000 of the fine to help reimburse Florida State for the cost of investigating the scandal, suspended Bey's sentence until later this year because Bey is being tried on unrelated charges in California.
Bey's conviction brings to four the number of individuals fined for attempting to woo Seminoles players with cash and clothing. Like Bey, the others were guilty of failing to register with the state as sports agents, a third-degree felony in Florida. The only loose end involves Nate Cebrun, a bird dog hired by Bey to get inside the Florida State program. Cebrun was fined $2,000 and sentenced to 30 days in jail, but, according to his Florida probation officer, he moved back to Las Vegas after his release last summer and failed to register with Nevada authorities as required by his probation. Both states have issued warrants for Cebrun's arrest for the probation violation.
The Foot Locker scandal has had other repercussions. Florida State suspended four players for at least two games just before the '94 season for accepting gifts from agents. And the NCAA ruled in March that Florida State was guilty of failing to monitor the activities of agents, giving the school's football program one year's probation, one of the lightest penalties it could assess for what it deemed a major violation. (Florida State is appealing the penalty.) There has been additional turmoil in the athletic department: Athletic director Bob Goin was fired in October '94 because he violated a state ethics law by having a university contractor put a roof on his house at a discount.
A postscript: Despite the apparent closure at Florida State, illegal contact between agents and players remains a major concern for the NCAA.