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Brazil police find two Cuban boxers who went missing during Pan Am Games

Police found two Cuban boxers who went missing during last month's Pan American Games, authorities said Friday.

Erislandy Lara, 24, and two-time Olympic boxing champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, 25, were found Thursday at an inn in Cabo Frio, a resort city east of Rio. Local police said the pair had wracked up an exorbitant tab and were seen frequently partying in the company of women.

The two boxers want to now return to Cuba, according to federal police inspector Felicio Laterca.

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

Rigondeaux failed to attend the weigh-in for his bantamweight bout against Carlos Cuadras of Mexico, while Lara did not show for his welterweight fight against Ricardo Smith of Jamaica.

Both 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 who they gave their uniforms and passports to.

Last month, German cable station Arena TV said that it had signed Lara and Rigondeaux to five-year contracts. The details of that deal are not clear.

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 on the case.

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

Rigondeaux won Olympic gold 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.

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