May 31, 2006

Kid Chocolate

His real name was Eligio Sardiñias-Montalbo, but he was known as “Kid Chocolate.” He wasn’t a big guy, standing at just over 5-and-a-half feet, but his fists were lightning-fast, and his feet could dance like he was from Havana. He had a movie-star smile, and a high profile career in the late 1920s and early 1930s, holding world titles in the lightweight and welterweight divisions.

As an amateur, Kid Chocolate had 100 fights and won them all, 86 by knockouts. His professional debut came on December 8 1927, and he won 21 bouts before he moved to New York.

On July 15 1931, he became Cuba’s first world champion by defeating Jr. Lightweight champion Benny Bass in New York.

When his career in boxing ran out, Kid Chocolate returned to Havana, where he worked as a boxing trainer.

After the triumph of the Cuban rebels in 1959, Kid Chocolate stayed in Cuba. Today, a boxing stadium in Havana bears his name, and many still consider him the best Cuban fighter ever.

Kid Chocolate died in Havana on Aug 8 1988. His final record was 135 wins, 9 losses and 6 draws. Over 50 of his wins were by knockouts.


Such are the stories I’ve encountered while researching a boxing story for


Did you know that since 1972 Cuban boxers have won 64 of the last 152 gold medals issued in World Amateur Boxing competitions for men?

Did you know that two Cuban boxers have each won 3 straight Gold medals in boxing at the Olympic Games in the heavyweight division? Their names are Teofilio Stevenson (1972, 1976 and 1980) and Felix Savon (1992, 1996 and 2000).


May 15, 2006

A Feather from his Pillow

In the weeks prior to the invasion at Bay of Pigs in April 1961, New York Times reporters Tad Szulc and James Reston wrote a number of editorials and articles warning of and opposing the impending invasion.

On April 7 Tad Szulc mentioned anti-Castro military camps in Guatemala early on in his article, and revealed everything except the minor details.

In his article of April 11, Reston invokes not just common sense, but the OAS articles to which the U.S. was legally bound. He further explores moral reasons in support and opposition to an invasion of Cuba.

On April 15, shortly after the first wave of air raids, the job of delivering the official CIA cover story falls to reporter Tad Szulc.

Secretary of State Dean Rusk is quoted Reston’s article on April 17: “The issue in Cuba is not between Cuba and the United States but between the Castro dictatorship and the Cuban people.” He added, “What happens in Cuba is for the Cuban people to decide.”

On April 20 Reston reported on the state of mind at Kennedy’s White House following the Cuban victory.

“The whole system of intelligence analysis within the Government must be speedily reviewed,” wrote Reston. “The question naturally arises how it could be that this apparatus, with all its access to Cuba and to friendly nations within the hemisphere, could be so sure that the Cubans would revolt, and be so wrong on the critical point of judgment.”

Kennedy never publicly blamed anyone for the failure at Bay of Pigs, but every major CIA official involved eventually got fired.


May 06, 2006

Was He Then as He Has Always Been?

Shortly after the attack at Bay of Pigs began, Castro declared that Cuba was and would continue to be a socialist nation. Some believe that Castro was always a communist, with plans to rule Cuba forever, and an eye on the rest of the Western hemisphere. It doesn’t matter that the Cuban Communists didn’t openly befriend Castro until they absolutely had to. Others believe that the Cuban revolution was pushed into the arms of the Soviets by unrelenting, hard-edged imperialism, and a history of U.S. support for right-wing regimes on the island. From the beginning of the Revolution, many suspected that Castro held deeply leftists views. Where were the tax cuts for the rich? Where were the cuts on services for the poor? Why such a push for educating and feeding the poor and disenfranchised? With the new book by De-Palma shedding light on the triumph over Batista, and the 45-year anniversary of an invasion that should have never taken place coinciding with the length of a brutal economic embargo that should’ve never existed, it’s now possible for the American people to take a deep breath and reflect on relations with their Cuban neighbors. Peace.