Cuba has a population of 11.32 million. When you consider that countries like the United States have a population of around 335 million, it’s reasonable to expect that Cuba will not have as many mega stars in the world of sports.
Despite this, there have been many different Cuban sports stars that have made an impact on the international stage. Baseball players are arguably the country’s most well-known sporting export. However, the country has also produced professional sports stars in other sports too!
With that being said, below, we will tell you more about some of the most famous sports stars to come from Cuba.
Known as King Kong, Luis Ortiz is a name that alot of boxing fans will be familiar with. He fights in the heavyweight division, having challenged for the WBC heavyweight title twice. He also held the WBA interim heavyweight titles from 2015 to 2016.
He came ever so close to defeating Deontay Wilder, rocking the Bronze Bomber early in the fight. However, Wilder closed the show in the 10th round to hold onto the belts.
Speaking about his Cuban legacy and fighting for his family, Ortiz said the following:
“Everything I do in the ring is for my family. To become the first Cuban heavyweight champion in boxing history would be a dream come true, not only for me, but for my countrymen back home.”
“He was the best ballplayer of all time, black or white.” – Buck Leonard
It is only right that we include the best Cuban baseball player of all time in the list, right?
With the nickname “The Immortal,” it’s not hard to figure out just how highly thought of Martín Dihigo is.
During his 30-year career, he played in every position possible. His career not only took him across Cuba, but also Venezuela, Mexico, and the United States.
Before passing away in 1971, he won around 260 games of baseball!
Pedro Luis Lazo
Another baseball player, Lazo spent his entire career in Cuba. The pitcher won a record-breaking 257 matches in the National Series. He ranked second in the strike-out rankings.
He won titles in both 1997 and 1998 with Pinar del Rio. Lazo had great success in the Olympic Games as well, winning gold at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and silver at the 2000 Sydney Games.
When talking about the crowd at Latinoamericano Stadium in Havana, Lazo said the following:
“I like it when they shout at me. It makes me stronger. When they do, I feel tougher.”
Volleyball star Regla Torres won three consecutive Olympic gold medals at the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Games. The International Volleball Federation named her the best player in the 20th century.
The following is an extract from the International Volleball Federation:
“She is a well-rounded player and has won awards for many different disciplines in volleyball; serving, receiving, spiking and blocking. She is also an exceptional jumper, and continues to play with the Cuban National Team while she pursues a college education.
“The Volleyball Hall of Fame is proud to induct Regla Torres Herrera as the greatest volleyball female player of the 20th century.”
Regla led the Cuban team, known as the “Morenas del Caribe,” which won a number of major volleyball events between 1992 and 2000.
Torres was widely known for her incredible blocking ability. She features in the Massachusetts Volleyball Hall of Fame.
Iván Pedroso is one of the best track-and-field athletes to come out of Cuba. Known as “The Grasshopper,” he won gold at the Sydney Olmypic Games in 2000 and nine World Championships.
He beat the world record at an event in Italy in 1996 by jumping 8.96 meters. Frustratingly, the record did not stand, as a judge interfered with the wind measurement.
“What are eight million dollars compared to the love of eight million Cubans?” – Teófilo Stevenson
Another boxer with a great reputation from Cuba, Teófilo Stevenson particularly excelled in the amateur ranks.
He won Olympic gold at the 1980 Games in Moscow, 1976 Games in Montreal, and 1972 Games in Munich.
The possibility of fighting Muhammed Ali was explored during the late 1970s, but it never came to fruition.
Last but not least, we cannot talk about Cuban sports stars without mentioning Javier Sotomayor. He holds the world record for the high jump, which he set in 1993 when he jumped 2.45 m. This is the longest standing record in the history of the men’s high jump.
“Everything you do at home will be rewarded. To everyone that keeps going, that keeps thinking of their dreams and goals, who don’t lose them because of what we’re going through, they will come through this.” – Javier Sotomayor
Nicknamed ‘The Prince of Heights,’ he cleared the record breaking height at an outdoor event in Salamanca, Spain. He also won silver at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Unfortunately, issues with banned substances overshadowed his career toward the end, but no one can take away what he achieved in the sport.
The most famous Cuban sports stars
So there you have it: an insight into some of the most famous sports stars from Cuba. We hope that this has given you a better understanding of some of the most gifted and talented