Ding, ding! In this corner, freedom!

The Sporting News today has an article about–surprise, surprise–athletes leaving Cuba, looking for freedom:

Odlanier Solis, a 26-year-old heavyweight; Yuriorkis Gamboa, a 25-year-old super bantamweight; and 27-year-old Barthelemy stole away from their hotel while training in Venezuela for the upcoming Pan American Games and then crossed into Colombia.

There’s more:

Solis and Gamboa left behind young children.

“It was a hard decision. It may be months or years before we see them,” a tearful Solis said. “But I believe in the end it will be best for them.”

All three were favorites in their weight classes to repeat at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Gamboa said he sold his 2004 gold medal last year to pay for his 2-year-old daughter’s first birthday party. It’s not uncommon for Cuban Olympic athletes sell their medals to earn cash to help their families, he added.

“You know things are hard in Cuba,” Gamboa said. “I wanted to be able to give her the celebration she deserved as the daughter of a champion.”