Humberto Savigne won a gold medal for Cuba in the 1999 Pan American Games. The year before, he took gold in the Central American and Caribbean Games. As an amateur, he had more than 400 fights while training in Guantanamo with the likes of Erislandy Lara, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Odlanier Solis and Luis Ortiz.
But some time after winning gold in the Pan Am Games, Savigne was forced to step away from the sport. It wasn't until 2009, after fleeing Cuba and resurfacing in Miami at age 30, that Savigne was finally able to launch his professional career.
“Boxing in Cuba wasn’t promised,” Umberto Savigne says. “I would train every single day and work like an animal, but there were no benefits to reap ever. I couldn’t continue like that. I had kids and a family to feed.”
Forced to leave the sport by circumstance, Savigne did what he had to do by peddling whatever meager items he could scrounge up in Guantanamo.
“I was a businessman on the street,” Savigne said. “I would sell ice cream, sodas—anything I could get my hands on and resell and make some money for my family.”
Not content with slinging ice cream for a living, Savigne and 32 fellow countrymen got on a raft. They spent two days floating in the middle of the ocean before finally reaching the shores of Mexico. From there, he traveled by car and bus through that country until finally arriving in the United States.
When he finally got back into training, Savigne weighed 250 pounds, and for his first few professional tilts, Savigne weighed north of 190. But he kept training, kept working, kept fighting and got back to 175 in time for his fourth pro fight in 2011.
Now with lost time to make up for, Savigne (12-2, 9 KOs) is eager for the challenge of facing fellow 175-pound prospect Thomas Williams Jr. (18-1, 12 KOs) on Friday at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi (Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET/PT).
But when Savigne climbs between the ropes, it won’t be with his homeland on his mind.
“I was inspired to come here to change my life and my family’s lives. Because in Cuba, there’s no life at all for nobody," he says. "I already did my part in the amateurs for Cuba. I gave 15 years of my life. Now it’s time for me to do my part for the United States, for the country that gave me freedom.”
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