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Casamayor Fighting for a Cause: Elian Case Catches Defector's Attention
Santos A. Perez

April 17, 2000

"Casamayor Fighting for a Cause: Elian Case Catches Defector's Attention"

Herald Writer

The plight of Elian Gonzalez has not gone unnoticed in Joel Casamayor's preparation for the biggest fight of his professional career.

Even if the international custody battle involving the Cuban boy is resolved before Casamayor fights for the WBA super-featherweight title against defending champion Jongkown Baek of Korea, Elian will be in Casamayor's thoughts. Casamayor, 28, defected from Cuba in 1996.

``I'm dedicating the fight to the freedom of Elian Gonzalez,'' Casamayor said Friday from Los Angeles, where he is preparing for the May 21 fight (FOX Sports Net) in Kansas City. ``This boy has touched so many hearts.''

``I don't like to talk about politics, but I would like to see him stay here. You only want the best for Elian.''

Casamayor (20-0, 12 KOs) also wants to win over fans in his title fight against Baek (21-0-1, 18 KOs). For Casamayor, a win would fulfill the goal he has had since leaving the Cuban national team -- along with cruiserweight Ramon Garbey -- in Mexico weeks before the 1996 Olympics.

If Casamayor, a 1992 Olympic gold medalist, beats Baek, he will join WBC cruiserweight champion Juan Carlos Gomez as the only Cuban amateur boxers of the Castro system to win professional world titles.

``With my experience, I shouldn't have any problem,'' said Casamayor, a veteran of more than 300 amateur bouts. ``I don't know much about [Baek], but I understand his style is to come forward and be aggressive. And that suits me fine because I fight from different angles and do my boxing.''

Although he established himself professionally in South Florida, Casamayor now trains in Los Angeles after signing a promotional contract with America Presents.

``In Miami, I just wasn't training as hard,'' Casamayor said. ``There were too many distractions . . .''

Still, Casamayor is quick to admit he misses Miami, especially his 6-month-old son, Joel Jr., and girlfriend, Scarlet Castillo.


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