Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Haitian Going to The Olympics!

Found this on my Yahoo news feed. Miami Herald posted this about this young Haitian Boxer...what an amazing man...Hope he gets the Gold!!!!!

Fight for Haiti: Boxer goes from boat refugee to Olympics contender
Posted on Wed, Aug. 06, 2008


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Dressed in black trunks, Azea Augustama danced across the boxing ring, bobbing and weaving, striving for perfection with every hard-hitting punch. His goal: consistency.
A few days later, Augustama would be thousands of miles from his Miami Beach training ring, preparing for his Olympics debut. The National Golden Gloves boxing champion has come a long way from the 7-year-old who landed in Miami in 1990 aboard a rickety boat from Haiti.
''I have been working at this for 18 years,'' says Augustama, a light heavyweight who will be among 10 athletes -- and the only boxer -- representing Haiti in Beijing.
''When I'm at the opening ceremony and they light the torches, it might sink in then,'' says Augustama, 25, still awestruck about the possibility of living his dream. ``This is a lifelong experience.''
Augustama made the Olympics in mid-April by capturing the bronze medal at the International Boxing Association American Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Guatemala. He beat out competitors from Mexico, Canada and Uruguay. His accomplishment has captured the attention of South Florida's Haitian community, which last week had a fundraiser to help raise the $20,000 for his Beijing trip.
With thousands of athletes from more than 200 countries competing in the Olympics, Augustama knows there are no guarantees. But he says he is ready.
He has had more than 60 fights in the last four years. Competing in such places as Cuba, Ecuador, Brazil and the Bahamas, Augustama has an 85-8 record with 35 knockouts.
As a junior amateur, he competed in two Nationals, winning the 2001 Junior Golden Gloves Nationals and the 2000 National Police Athletic League Championships. He won the National Golden Gloves in May by defeating the defending light heavyweight champion.
But while his Haitian citizenship has created a path to the Olympics, it also has hindered him.
''Not being a [U.S.] citizen, I couldn't go to certain competitions, and Haiti is in a lot of turmoil and did not have the money to send me because it is expensive,'' Augustama said. Many countries cover expenses of their athletes regardless of where they live.
With few competitions to bolster his competitive edge and grow his popularity, Augustama said he focused on his training: jump roping, shadow boxing, sparring with partners and the punching bag, and running four miles a day.
He paid for the training by working a construction job for the last four years. It has also allowed him to support his 2-year-old son, Azea Jr., and his girlfriend. He was laid off in March.
''I chipped and hammered all day, plain and simple,'' he said. ``It would break your joints down, and by the time I got to the gym I was really beat up.''
Augustama, who is not on any Olympic ''to watch'' lists, faces a tough road in Beijing.
Jacques Deschamps, who has a 37-year career as a boxing manager and promoter, has never seen Augustama fight. But he knows about his achievement.
His chance of winning an Olympic medal, he says, ``depends on the draw.''
''If he draws a Cuban first round, he's out of it,'' Deschamps said in a telephone interview from Haiti. ``If he has a good draw where he doesn't draw a Cuban or an American, he will have a fighting chance.''
Earlier this year, Augustama realized another dream. He became a U.S. citizen. While theoretically the Haitian Constitution does not recognize the citizenship of another country, Augustama was still a Haitian citizen while competing in the qualifying fights. Also because he and his parents were born in Haiti, Augustama and his coach say, the government saw nothing wrong with the representation.
Neither does his parents. ''It doesn't matter what happened in Haiti, we are still Haitian,'' said his mother, Cilia Augustama, who is proud that her son will represent Haiti at the Olympics. His first fight will be Saturday.
On Monday, the day Augustama and his trainer left for Beijing, Cilia Augustama prayed that he will win a medal in China. She keeps faith and is sure of his chances of winning ''because I know that God is with him,'' she said.
It's not the first time Cilia Augustama has prayed for her son's success and safety. Born in the northwest Haitian city of Gonaives, the young boxer fled Haiti with his parents and seven of his nine brothers in 1990 in a boat. At the time, Haiti was mired in political violence as the country prepared to elect its first democratic president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Thousands of Haitians fled on the high seas.
''We left because of political reasons. They use to come in your house and question you and sometimes not even question you and just kill you,'' said Augustama, 62, a retired housekeeper. ``We needed more security and a better life and education.''
He grew up in a tough North Miami neighborhood where many of his friends and neighbors easily fell prey to a local gang.
After failing to make his high school football team because of lackluster grades, he discovered boxing. At 15, he was boxing with the Hollywood Police Athletic League with trainer Antonio Detancourt.
Soon, what began as recreation became a passion.
Among the people Augustama has trained and spared with: Jermain Taylor, World Boxing Organization Middleweight Champion of the World, and Arthur Abraham, International Boxing Federation Middleweight Champion of the World.
''I look at him as a specimen. He is the epitome of a lightweight champion,'' said Detancourt, Augustama's trainer.
Detancourt has trained more than 50 amateur fighters, but Augustama is his first boxer to qualify for the Olympics. Detancourt says the ultimate ending to Augustama's storied journey would be for him to be Haiti's first boxer to win a medal, and the first Haitian since Sylvio Cator won silver in the men's long jump in 1928.
''It would be a beautiful feeling,'' Detancourt said.

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