Brazil’s first medal in boxing Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games came for the gloves of Abner Teixeira. It wasn’t the way the Brazilian wanted it, but it was special. The athlete was defeated by Cuban Julio Cesar La Cruz in the semifinal of the men’s heavyweight division, between 81 and 91 kilos, this Tuesday morning. As boxing does not foresee the dispute for the bronze, the defeated in the semifinal already guarantee third place on the podium. This was the case with Abner, who sees the medal as the path to his greatest goal: buying a house for his mother. It was Brazil’s 13th medal in Japan, the seventh bronze.
Abner was born in Osasco, in the metropolitan region of São Paulo, but his current home is the city of Sorocaba, 100 kilometers from the capital, where he moved in 2011. In the same year, at the age of 15, he discovered the struggle through social project “Boxing – a light for the future”. He reports that, at the time, he felt sedentary and sought the sport because he wanted something to “move on”. First he tried basketball, but soon the social project attracted him to boxing. “I participated in a sieve with more than 70 athletes and passed”, he says. To this day he thanks Professor Vladimir Godoi, his first boxing coach who also taught him the importance of studies. It is because of him that today, at the age of 24, Abner has the desire to study physical education at the university. “I had no intention of being an athlete or going to college, but he instructed me to want both”, he says.
With more than 1.90m, Teixeira soon became a Brazilian reference in the heavyweight category, over 91 kilos. He was two-time Brazilian youth and elite champion. In 2019, competing in the Pan de Lima, he won the bronze medal. It was then that he realized that sport could help not only to combat sedentary lifestyles, but also to provide a better life for his family.
The boxer does not hide that his main objective is to give a home to his mother, Izaudita Sampaio. “I’m working on this, buying a house for my mother. She has never had a home of her own and I want to give that joy to her. The immediate goals are to be Olympic champion and world champion”, he said before losing the semifinal. “In the long run, they are about buying my mother a house and giving her a better future.” With the bronze medal, Abner pockets around 300,000 reais, in addition to possible sponsorship contracts and Bolsa Pódio, the federal government’s aid guaranteed to athletes who are among the top 20 in their category in the world. On the mother’s side, nervousness: Dona Izaudita says that she watched the fight that guaranteed her son the bronze medal, in the quarterfinals, on her knees and praying. “I say my heart is good because it’s full pressure. And I only managed to get up when the fight was over”, joked the resident of Sorocaba.
The victory to which Izaudita refers was against the Palestinian Hussein Iashaish, in the quarterfinals, which earned him a spot in the semi. Before, Abner had already defeated the British Cheavon Clarke. The defeat to La Cruz interrupts the trajectory for gold, but does not change the Brazilian’s plans. “The Olympic medal will open up several paths. I can finish the Olympics and go to the 2024 Olympics, I can go professional and fight for a professional world title. This Olympic medal will really change my life”, he projected before fighting the semi.
The boxer’s medal confirms the good moment that Brazil is experiencing in Olympic sport. After winning a bronze only in 1968, with Servílio de Oliveira, Brazilian boxing returned to its face in 2012, with medals for the brothers Esquiva and Yamaguchi Falcão, in addition to Adriana Araújo. In 2016, the first gold came with Robson Conceição in Rio de Janeiro. In addition to the confirmed third place for Teixeira, boxers Hebert Conceição and Beatriz Ferreira have also already secured at least one bronze, but they will still fight in the semifinals to see them try to reach the gold medal.
Support news production like this. Subscribe to EL PAÍS for 30 days for 1 US$
Support our journalism. Subscribe to EL PAÍS by clicking here
sign up here to receive the daily newsletter of EL PAÍS Brasil: reports, analyses, exclusive interviews and the main information of the day in your e-mail, from Monday to Friday. sign up also to receive our weekly newsletter on Saturdays, with highlights of coverage for the week.