Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym In Havana, Cuba


This is the third in a series of posts on my first visit to Cuba.  Click these links for parts one and two.

One of the very first places we visited in Cuba was a short walk from our hotel through Old Havana to the Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym or the Rafael Trejo Gimnasio al Aire Libre.  The gym, like many places in Cuba was named in memory of a revolutionary figure, this time after Rafael Trejo who was a Cuban law student, killed in 1930 during protests against the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado.


Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym

The gym, like many places in the crumbling streets of Havana is easy to miss from the street and marked by a single, small sign.  Walking through the door you enter perhaps the oldest boxing club in Havana, an open air arena nestled in the center of a courtyard with seating on two sides, nestled in-between a couple of three level apartment buildings with windows open to the training area.  Like just about everything in Cuba, the training equipment is well worn with the exception of a brand new heavy (70-80lb) punching bag.  Despite its well worn and neglected appearance, it is one of the more famous boxing arenas with a number of Olympic champions having trained here.

I was pretty excited to see this place as this is about as fundamental and raw as boxing gets.  However, we arrived late morning and the light inside the gym was atrocious with all sorts of harsh highlights coupled with shadows underneath the awning.  Keeping exposures under control was a nightmare as people moved from light to shadow, but I figured some of that could be an advantage, especially with RAW files that give you a little bit of extra dynamic range.  The gym was also a relatively small place and having even a few photographers moving around along with boxing students and others made it a pretty tough environment to shoot in.  But when was I going to get back here?  Might as well suck it up and make it work…


Boxing instructor_

Boxing is perhaps Cuba’s second most favorite sport behind baseball and apparently folks of all ages come here to train.  Today however, were boxers in their 20’s that were there were in pretty good shape with a couple exhibiting  fierce and sharp reflexes.  After watching for a few minutes, I was asked who I’d least want to get into the ring with and I responded that the two people I would not have wanted to tangle with were the old guy who was doing the instruction at the school, pictured above (incredibly fast, precise and controlled) and the young woman pictured at top, who was *in it*.  Apparently, the instructor was a 5 time Cuban national champion…  Unfortunately, I did not get their names as I did not want to interrupt their training, but it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to watch them train.


Boxing training

Boxers portrait

Boxing exercises

Boxing the mirror



Throwing punches

laughing boxer




Duncan and Bob in stands

Duncan shot this image from this entry, pretty much where he was sitting in this picture.


Erik Couse in stands

Erik Couse shown immediately above, shot this image from the gym.


There has been a movie produced about Namibia, the boxer seen in the introductory image that is used for the film’s promotional materials.  More information about Meg Smaker’s film can be seen here.



It can be hard to contact the gym, but this is the latest contact information I have for them:

Gimnasio de Boxeo Rafael Trejo
Calle Cuba 815

Tel: 00537 862 0266


Links to other images others in our group shot.

Dave Cohen shot these images from our visit.

Brandon Downey shot the following images:  Under Wraps, Eye of the Tiger and an epic image titled Monster in the Ring.

Dave Kile shot this image, this image and this image from our visit.

Aaron D’Souza shot this image.

Vincent Mo shot this image.

Matteo Slanina shot this image.

44 Replies to “Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym In Havana, Cuba”

  1. You talk about harsh light but I think the colors came out great. The red of the ring and the yellow walls. Also nice that you got those shots of your travel companions talking and waiting for the next great shot. The other images you linked to are also great. Really like Matteo Slanina’s photo signifying the speed of the motion. I get the feeling I’m using the word great too much in this comment but that describes your pictures best.

  2. Hello there!

    First of all thanks for those great photos. So nice to see some good photos. Love the contrast between the yellow wall and the man jumps. And the black and white is also ver nice, not too much contrast which I find pleasing.
    But my main interest is rather selfish, I am a female boxer and would love to train in Cuba next year. A month or so. The only thing is I am not sure if women are allowed to train there, in most videos and images I see only men..except the photos on this site. First time seeing a women :)
    Wanted to ask if you have an idea about the circumstances there?

    1. Hey Alicia,

      I don’t know what your nationality is, but even if it is USA, educational opportunities would fall under the new visa rules and you *should* be able to go and train. Talk with the State Dept. and see what they have to say.

      As for women, yeah… There was a woman there and she was fierce. I don’t know what her circumstances are, but given the popularity of boxing in Cuba, I am not surprised to see women boxing. If you would like, I can see if I can find some contact information for you.

      1. Hey Bryan!

        Wow thanks for that fast reply. Usually people do not answer that quick so I didn’t look until now.
        I am from Vienna, Austria and will check out the visa rules. What I got so far is that they are a few foreigners training there here and there but just wasnt sure bout women since they didnt send any to the Olympics 2012.

        I would be glad about any contact information I can get. The more the better :-)
        Thank you in advance!

        And by the way: I reaaallyy love the ballerina picture in part one of your serious!

          1. Sorry to bug I’m just wondering who is the head trainer there. I’m heading out there on Wednesday. If you don’t mind responding thank you

    2. Alicia, when we were there in February there was a 60ish women there training so I assume that you can go there and train. The coach whose name I do not know is a very intense and serious coach. Awesome to watch!

  3. The coaches name is Nardo Mestre Flores. He is a wiry explosive small package that knows his business! He was a member of the national Cuban boxing team for 9 years.

      1. Hey Alicia,

        did you end up going to train there in the end?

        I’m a female boxer from the UK and want to head to Cuba in August for 4 weeks and hopefully train.

        How was your trip there?

    1. I’ll ping a couple of folks I know to see if they can provide contact information for you. Past attempts have been unsuccessful, though Internet access to Cuba can be spotty at best.

  4. Hi there,
    I am Anwar Mohiuddin, President of Pakistan Kickboxing Federation, I want to find a good Cuban Coach of Boxing, I want to send my Team in Cuba for advance Level Training of Boxing Techniques.
    can anybody help me to find a good Cuban Boxing Coach.
    please let me know his Email or Website address.

    1. Hello Anwar,

      I am looking into contact information right now and asking a couple of friends who might know who, where and how to contact them. I’ll post that contact info here as soon as I can get it.

    2. salam
      i’ll propose ti you someone who had realise a good results in boxing pro or amator
      contact plz
      00213 658482185
      good luck

  5. This great man was my great uncle my grandpas brother. Thats the honest truth. The stories that I have heard go beyond imaginable as he loved his people, community, and his country. Ive never heard anything bad ever said about him. He has made a lasting impression and touched a lot of peoples lives. Some say he was like what Martin Luther King was to the u.s.a, he was to Cuba. He was also an architect, A man of many talents with a heart that beats forever. I love u TIO TREJO HOY,MANANA, Y SIEMPRE. QUE DIOS TE VENDIGA

  6. Gareth you can contact me we have the contacts in Cuba to help, I have just been out there visiting to set up our Boxing legends programme. You can contact me at Xtreme Gap Year.

    Bryan, lovely piece in answer to your question about the trainer I suspect the trainor was Hector Vincent Caron, 6 times national champion and 2 x world champion also gold medal winner at the atlanta olympics as well.

  7. hi there
    i am looking into going to havana to train for a few weeks.
    what would you suggest is the best way to go about it.

    arrange with the gym beforehand or just turn up and train daily wth them.

  8. I am traveling to smaller cities in Cuba and would like to do some photography in a boxing gym. Do you have any contacts resources in Pinar del Rio, Trinidad,
    Santa Clara or Cienfuegos? I would appreciate any leads or suggestions.


    1. Hello Jay,

      I do not have any contacts in Pinar del Rio, Trinidad, Santa Clara or Cienfuegos. It sounds like an amazing trip and idea though. Perhaps someone at Rafael Trejo can give you pointers?

  9. Hi Bryan. Great pictures. The Rafael Trejo is a boxing gym but it is also a paradise for photographers who like action, sport and people.
    Now in 2022 it will reopen its doors after a time closed for renovation and covid.
    I take the liberty to put a link to an article of mine with contact information with the trainers of the gym who already have whatsapp.
    I hope you don’t mind me posting this information.


    Your article brought back good memories, many of the boxers you photographed are already out of Cuba.
    Best regards

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *