Misael Rodriguez begged for money on Mexico City’s streets and buses to fulfil his dream of reaching the Rio Olympics and now aims to repay the public’s generosity with boxing gold.
The middleweight kissed the canvas after defeating Hosam Abdin from Egypt to reach Thursday’s semifinals, meaning he has captured Games bronze at the minimum.
Mexico is yet to win a medal in Brazil.
“It was well worth all the pain,” he said afterwards, referring to his exhaustive fundraising efforts that finally got him to Rio.
The 22-year-old Rodriguez and other Mexican boxers say they got scant financial support from the government, forcing them to go cap in hand to the public.
He takes on Bektemir Melikuziev of Uzbekistan in the semis.
Olympic dream a reality
Ceiber David Avila and his terrified family fled his Colombian hometown after an infamous senior paramilitary leader now locked up in the United States allegedly murdered his uncle.
Now he is chasing Olympic history in Rio as the first Colombian to win boxing gold.
That dream --- unthinkable when his world was brutally turned upside down as a little boy --- edged closer to reality when the 27-year-old flyweight progressed to the quarterfinals.
Avila was born in the Colombian port city of Turbo, near the border with Panama.
But when he was just five a deeply feared paramilitary boss called Salvatore Mancuso --- described by US authorities as one of Colombia’s most notorious drug traffickers --- entered their lives and killed his uncle.
Avila and his family gave up all they knew and had to move to the capital Bogota in fear of their lives.
For a young Avila, it was a frightening and mystifying place and the family had to rebuild their lives from nothing.
Four years later he found boxing, with the encouragement of his mother, after he began getting into trouble at school.
He now wants to repay his mother, hoping to earn enough from his Games exploits to buy her a new house.
“I would also like to build a sports facility for kids to play sports,” added Avila, who trains with Yurberjen Martinez, the light flyweight who won silver on Sunday --- a first for Colombian boxing in Games history.
He too pledged to buy his mother a new home.
Meanwhile, Mancuso is living under a roof of a very different kind --- a high-security US prison.
Last year, a US court handed him a 15-year sentence for conspiracy to traffic large amounts of cocaine after he was extradited to the United States.
Mancuso is also alleged to have committed human rights violations.
Cuban fights Cuban
Olympic boxing witnessed the rare sight of two Cubans fighting each other in the ring on Tuesday with the winner securing a medal for Azerbaijan.
Lorenzo Sotomayor Collazo, the Havana-born cousin of Cuba’s 1992 Olympic high jump champion Javier Sotomayor, was fighting in the red corner for Azerbaijan against Cuban light-welterweight Yasniel Toledo.
Sotomayor, a leggy 31-year-old with a long reach and elastic movement, won the quarterfinal on a unanimous points decision to be sure of at least a bronze.
A Cuban national champion in 2009, he took the Azeri title in 2014 after a move to Baku.
Countries can have only one boxer representing them in each weight division at the Olympics, providing they qualify, and the competition for a slot is intense in a country like Cuba that boasts a proud history in the sport.
“At the end he just said ‘thanks’ and that was it,” said Toledo of his opponent, who made a quick getaway without speaking to reporters.
After an earlier fight, Sotomayor had spoken a few phrases in Azeri to that country’s media and briefly confirmed his background details.
“These things happen. I wish him all the best and that things work out well,” said Toledo, a lightweight bronze medallist four years ago. “He was better, he did his work well and in the end he deserved the win.”