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Cuban boxers turn up in Rio, say they want to go home

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Two Cuban boxers who disappeared during last month's Pan American Games were found at a resort near Rio, where police say they partied and ran up an exorbitant tab.

Now, a police inspector says, they want to go back to Cuba.

Two-time Olympic boxing champion Guillermo Rigondeaux and
Erislandy Lara were found Thursday at an inn in the coastal resort
city Cabo Frio.

"We still have to clear up the reason why they abandoned their
delegation and now want to return," federal police inspector
Felicio Laterca said. "Right now, they are only saying they are
very dear athletes in their country and that's why they want to
return."

The 25-year-old Rigondeaux failed to attend the weigh-in for his
bantamweight bout against Carlos Cuadras of Mexico. Lara, 24, did
not show for his welterweight fight against Ricardo Smith of
Jamaica. Rigondeaux and Lara were disqualified and their opponents
advanced to the semifinals.

The two boxers also said they had been contacted by a German
businessman, and they gave their uniforms and passports to him.
Last month, German cable station Arena TV said it had signed Lara
and Rigondeaux to five-year contracts. Details of that deal are not
clear.

Police said the pair had declined representation from lawyers
apparently sent by the German businessman.

"We are in contact with Brazilian authorities, maybe there is
still a chance that Rigondeaux and Lara will join us," Arena owner
Ahmet Oner said in a statement Friday. "I would wish that for both
the boys, that only want to be free and earn money."

Cuban President Fidel Castro blamed American money for their
defection, saying the boxers were "knocked down with a blow
straight to the chin, paid up with U.S. bills."

Laterca said the two boxers were staying at a hotel and remained
at liberty, but were being monitored by police. Police had
contacted the Cuban embassy to secure passports for the two men.

No one at the Cuban embassy was immediately available to
comment.

Since the 2004 Olympics, Cuban boxing has been beset by
defections, with several champions now fighting professionally in
the United States and Europe.

Rigondeaux won the Olympic gold medal in 2000 and '04 and is
also a world champion. He became Cuba's top boxer after the
retirement of Mario Kindelan in 2004 and was looking for his third
Pan Ams title.