September 1, 2016
By Lisa Valanti
On July 30th, Pittsburgh again made history by hosting the “US-Cuba Youth Boxing on the Bridge.” The event was televised live in Cuba; the first time that US based TV was ever available to every Cuban household. And for Pittsburgh, the Roberto Clemente Bridge was closed for the symbolic event: Pittsburgh, a city that builds international bridges, not walls! Over 3,000 people braved the inclement weather and a two-hour rain delay to show solidarity with changing US-Cuba policy.
This event was the culmination of many months of preparation and many factors, engaging the collaboration of many people, a direct result of the November Citizen Diplomat Delegation led by Congressman Michael Doyle, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak. Among the delegation hosted by the Pittsburgh-Matanzas Sister Cities Partnership, was one of our member organizations, the Hibernian Celtic Athletic Fund which, for several years, has hosted the Donnybrook Amateur Boxing event between Pittsburgh and Ireland.
Prior to the actual Boxing event, Pittsburgh youth traveled to Cuba with world famous boxer, ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini, and boxing champion, Steve Cunningham. The young boxers were able to watch the Cuban team practice for the Olympics.
When the two teams finally came together on the Roberto Clemente Bridge the night of July 30th, even lightening and a two-hour rain delay didn’t keep the youth athletes from giving their best. Cuba won seven of the bouts, the US won four, so Cuba went home with the Trophy Cup, but not before extending a heartfelt invitation to their new friends and our Pittsburgh youth to keep practicing and return to Havana Cuba for a rematch in the near future.
Lisa Valanti is Vice President of the Pittsburgh-Matanzas Sister Cities Partnership