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Cuban boxing coach denies his Olympic team inexperienced
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Cuban head coach Pedro Roque on Wednesday denied his Olympic boxing team as young and inexperienced, saying that opponents would have to go all out to fight the Cubans.

Cuban boxing lost five Athens Olympic champions: four turned professional and one hung up his gloves.

"We had to revamp our whole team just one year ahead of the (Beijing) Olympic Games," said the coach at Ditan gymnasium. However, the Cuban boxers are not affected, according to Roque.

"In Cuban boxing, there is a big competition for places and everybody wants to be the best of our country," said the coach. "Our boxers don't feel they are just replacing the defectors. They feel that now they have their chance to shine at the Olympics."

"Fortunately, the Olympic spirit is gaining ground over professionalism," he added.

Roque denied people's sayings that it's a young and inexperienced team. "The majority of our boxers are youth champions. Five of them won gold medals in the last Pan-American Games and that gave us a lot of confidence," said Roque.

However, he did lower his expectation for gold medals at this Olympics. "I can't say that we will win a lot of gold medals, but I think we can try to win several silvers and bronzes."

He also took the Chinese squad seriously, saying that the hosts could give their Russian, US and British opponents a hard time during the fights.

Cuba didn't compete in the 2007 World Amateur Boxing Championships, and has only obtained 10 out of the all 11 qualifying berths, the first time for Cuba in four decades. Cuba used to qualify for all the 11 categories of the Olympic boxing tournament.

Roque used to say this Olympics "would be a hard challenge for Cuban boxers".

(Xinhua News Agency August 7, 2008)

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