Changing China

Giant on the move

The school of hard knocks

August 14, 2008

YanezLuis Yanez, a pocket-sized 19-year-old from Duncanville, Texas, wipes his sore nose with his bandaged hand and catches his breath, showing off a string of broken down teeth.

Grandly nicknamed the Latin Legend, he has been working at a Mexican restaurant in the Dallas area since the age of 13.

Before coming here, he went through strenuous daily workouts at the U.S. team’s year-long residence programme in Colorado Springs. He went missing at one stage and was kicked out of the team before being reinstated in appeal.

The night before Friday’s draw, he had found his best friend and team mate Gary Russell Jr. unconscious in the room they share. Russell had collapsed after struggling to make his weight. He is okay now but his Olympics are over.

And here is Yanez, in the mixed zone after winning his first fight, politely calling you “Sir” and explaining he’s just had fun in the ring. He is smiling, his eyes are shining.

A few hours earlier, Deontay Wilder had been here, talking to the same journalists, also calling them “Sir” and loudly promising to go all the way to gold.

Three years ago, basketball was his thing and he had never boxed. He was 19 and became a father. His daughter was born with a spinal condition and doctors feared she might never walk, a prediction she has now defied.

To get the money he needed to pay for her medical care, Wilder took up two jobs, sleeping between shifts, and started to box, figuring it was a good way of making money. He learned fast.

Same spot, a day before. Rau’shee Warren hides his face in his hands and cries. Totally distraught, he then falls into the arms of a U.S. team spokeswoman. “I want to go home”, he tells her.

He is 21 and is a world champion. Four years ago, on his Olympic debut as a 17-year-old, he had lost in the first round. He decided to carry on as an amateur for four more years and the same has just happened. All the hard work, the sacrifices, it hasn’t paid off.

Warren once told his story about growing up in a rough Cincinnati district. The violence, the friends in jail. He hit the gym. Where would he be, had he not?

A few hours before, Jerome Thomas had been here. The Frenchman suffers from a rare birth defect called Poland syndrome. His left hand is shorter than his right, has no left pectoral muscle and needed seven operations to separate the fingers of his left hand.

Once told he was too weak to box, he won a bronze medal in Sydney and a silver in Athens. But his struggle to stay under his weight limit has taken its toll. He has just lost. He will never be an Olympic champion. “My body let me down,” he says. “I’m not afraid of the truth.”

That was just a couple of days at the boxing, a school of life and a true Olympic sport.

Picture by Lee Jae-Won, Reuters 

Comments

Nice color piece on the boxers who put their hearts into this game. Unfortunately for team USA Wilder is the only one left. The rest blew their gold chances by either throwing tantrums or refusing to let their hands go and complaining about robberies later. Hello? If you wanna win you gotta throw.

 

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