Split Decision (unreleased film)

Split Decision is filmmaker Brin-Jonathan Butler's cautionary examination of Cuban-American relations, and the economic and cultural paradoxes that have shaped those relations since Fidel Castro's revolution, through personal stories and interviews with the world's most famous contemporary Cuban boxers and international authorities on Cuba.[1]

Split Decision: The Guillermo Rigondeaux Story
Directed byBrin-Jonathan Butler
Produced byMichael Collins
Ronan Reinart
Brin-Jonathan Butler
Written byBrin-Jonathan Butler
StarringFelix Savon
Teofilo Stevenson
Guillermo Rigondeaux
Hector Vinent
Cristian Martinez
George Foreman
Gary Hyde
Bob Arum
Luis DeCubas
Ronnie Shields
Enrique Encinosa
S.L. Price
Ann Louise Bardach
Fidel Castro
Edited byJorge Alarcon-Swaby
Running time
90 minutes


In 2000 while in Cuba, filmmaker and amateur boxer Brin-Jonathan Butler started training at a small Havana gym under a coach named Hector. Brin soon discovered that Hector was in fact two-time Olympic gold medalist and boxing superstar Hector Vinent, who lived in Havana and hired out for private training at $6 per day.

Through Vinent, Brin was introduced to Cuba's boxing elite, including a champion known as "El Chacal" (the Jackal), Guillermo Rigondeaux – widely known as the greatest living boxer. Indeed, Rigondeaux (also a two-time Olympic gold medalist) was a rising star of the Cuban system whose career was cut out from under him after a failed defection attempt earlier in the year. In mid 2007, in response to the defection attempt, Fidel Castro branded Rigondeaux a traitor and forbid him from competing.

In 2009 Rigondeaux tried again and successfully defected. He was taken out of Cuba on a cramped smuggler's boat and delivered to the United States, where he started a pro career and went on the win a world title faster than anyone in history. He is the former WBA super bantamweight world champion (stripped after losing to Vasily Lomachenko at 130 lb) as well as former WBO and The Ring super bantamweight Unified champion after being stripped for inactivity.

Despite his winning streak, Rigondeaux remains largely isolated in America. He left his family in Cuba: a mother (who since died), a wife, a child; he left his friends and his peers; he left a familiar way of life and social system. He is not allowed to return to his homeland and is, essentially, shipwrecked now in search of the American Dream. As such, he stands in sharp contrast to his predecessors, Cuban boxers like Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon, who turned down offers of tens of millions of dollars in order to remain in Cuba rather than defect to America.

Drawn in by Rigondeaux's story, Brin began a journey into the heart of Cuban boxing, examining a central question: why would some Cuban Olympic gold medal- winning boxers defect for money, while others reject money to stay in Cuba?

It turns out the answer is as much about social values as it is about a sport that some call ‘the most primal and lonely in the world’.

Split Decision is Brin's cautionary examination of Cuban-American relations, and the cultural and economic paradoxes that have shaped those relations since Castro's revolution, through personal stories and interviews with the world's most famous contemporary Cuban boxers (such as Teofilo Stevenson, Felix Savon, Hector Vinent, and Guillermo Rigondeaux), titans of the American boxing industry (such as Top Rank's Bob Arum and former world heavyweight champion George Foreman), and international authorities on Cuba. The film also features interviews with award- winning authors on Cuba like Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Fainaru, S.L. Price of Sports Illustrated and the Miami Herald, National Book Award winner Carlos Eire, and Vanity Fair feature columnist Ann Louise Bardach.


  1. ^ "Cuba's Forgotten Champ". Salon.com.

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