Golden Boy signs recently defected Cuban boxers Barthelemy, Lara

LOS ANGELES -- Yan Barthelemy and Erislandy Lara, two star Cuban boxers who recently defected from their Communist nation, agreed to co-promotion deals Tuesday with Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions.

"It takes special talent to excel for so many years in the Cuban amateur system," said De La Hoya, a U.S. gold medalist in 1992. "I know that Yan and Erislandy will use that experience to soar through their professional careers."

Barthelemy (6-0), a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, defected in 2006 and signed with Germany's Arena Box Promotions along with fellow Cuban Olympic champions Odlanier Solis and Yuriorkis Gamboa. Barthelemy, whose last bout was an impressive victory over Jose Garcia Bernal, is scheduled to fight next in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 27.

Lara, a former amateur world champion welterweight, was considered a prohibitive favorite for a gold medal at the upcoming Beijing Olympics before last year's Pan-Am Games in Brazil, when he disappeared from the Cuban team along with two-time Olympic champion Guillermo Rigondeaux.

Although the fighters claimed they hadn't tried to defect, they were arrested and returned to Cuba. Both were denied spots on the Cuban national team for Beijing.

Last week, Arena Box CEO Ahmet Oner announced Lara had recently traveled from Cuba to Mexico by speedboat before making his way to Germany to sign a contract. Oner expects Lara to make his pro debut in Istanbul on July 4.

"I don't want to talk about the details of my escape," Lara said in a statement last week. "I am just glad to be here, and I am looking forward to turning professional and becoming champion of the world."