US teen boxer into quarters to make grandad proud

 09 Aug 2016 - 18:35

US teen boxer into quarters to make grandad proud
Carlos Balderas Jr (USA) of USA competes. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra


Rio de Janeiro: American lightweight boxer Carlos Balderas powered into the quarter-finals at the Rio Olympics on Tuesday, dedicating the win to his inspirational grandfather in the stands who nearly died just before the Games.

The 19-year-old Mexican-American made it two wins on the trot in Brazil as he routed the more experienced Japanese fighter Daisuke Narimatsu with an emphatic unanimous points decision.

The teenager has come through a lot to make it to Rio to represent the United States, after his grandfather and uncles left Mexico for a better life in the US, where they laboured long hours in Californian strawberry fields to barely make ends met.

Balderas was the first member of his large and deeply religious family to be born in the US, but his roots remain important and he keeps his relatives close, to the extent that he has more than 20 friends and family cheering him on in Brazil.

Among them is his frail grandfather David, who turns 84 next month and used to sleep in the fields as he toiled long hours for the financially struggling family.

"I saw everybody was in there, in the crowd, behind the blue corner (Balderas's corner)," he said.

"When I was about to step into the ring, I stepped forward and looked up and saw my cousins and everybody was screaming."

Reflecting on the vital role in his life of his devoted grandfather, Balderas said: "It means a lot to me (to have him in Rio). A couple of months ago he got sick with influenza and he was really really close to passing away.

"The nurse had said to him, 'You need to get better because your grandson is going to the Olympics in two months'.

"And he said, 'If it's possible, but if not, I'll be proud of him from heaven.'"