ATHENS, Greece -- Vicente Escobedo hasn't lost a boxing match since January, when his defeat at the U.S. championships inspired the lightweight to slug his way the biggest achievements of his career.
He wasn't about to let that streak end in the first round of the
Olympics. After all, his girlfriend still hasn't arrived in Athens
to watch him win.
Escobedo's punishing 30-10 victory over Colombia's Jose David Mosquera on Monday kept the United States unbeaten in the
preliminary round. He is the fifth American fighter into the second
round already, joining two winning teammates and two who received
"A lot of these guys are much older than us, but we're a young team, and we're fast," said the 22-year-old Escobedo, from
Woodland, Calif. "We're on a winning streak and hopefully we can
keep it up. It gave me a lot of confidence knowing my teammates and
family were cheering me on."
Indeed, Escobedo's well-wishers were the loudest fans at
Peristeri Olympic Boxing Hall when he took the ring. Led by his
brother, Jose Luis, the fans waved American flags and banners with
Escobedo's picture, and many wore T-shirts bearing his likeness
while chanting his nickname -- "Chente! Chente!"
Escobedo easily dispatched Mosquera, no match for the American's speed and combinations. Even Escobedo's jab was too much, and the referee stopped the fight 31 seconds into the third round on the 20-point mercy rule.
"I was anxious because I'd been waiting a long time to get in
the ring," he said. "My coach told me to get started real quick,
and that's what I did."
Escobedo's regard in the U.S. boxing community has grown
exponentially since the national championships, when his upset
defeat led many to question his resolve.
But ever since that semifinal loss to Anthony Vasquez, Escobedo is unbeaten in six straight competitions with a determination and resourcefulness that remind many of his hero, Oscar De La Hoya -- the 1992 gold medal-winning lightweight in Barcelona.
Escobedo shares De La Hoya's Mexican-American heritage -- and the support of a family that made plenty of sacrifices to get him to Athens. Led by Jose Luis and aided by the owner of a Woodland
sports bar, Escobedo's team sold T-shirts, held a car wash, put up
posters and even collected donations at a local bank.
They raised more than $25,000 to send his mother, two brothers and more family to Greece -- and his girlfriend and her brother are still on the way.
"The community in Woodland really stepped up and helped me out," he said.
Escobedo was hurt only once when Mosquera instantaneously
blinded him with a punch to the head in the second round. Escobedo
had a slight swelling under his right eye, but expected it to heal
In the second round, Escobedo will fight Azerbaijan's Rovshan Huseynov, a narrow first-round winner. If Escobedo wins, he probably will fight defending champion Mario Kindelan of Cuba for a berth in the semifinals and a guaranteed medal. The 33-year-old
Kindelan beat Nigeria's Ahmed Sadiq 21-1 Monday.
Such are the problems for the young American team. The U.S.
fighters' paths to medals are blocked by men from Cuba and Russia --
some who have a decade of age and amateur experience over the
But after their early successes, Escobedo and his teammates
believe anything is possible -- even improving on the Americans'
four medals in Sydney four years ago.
"I've accomplished my dream by being here," Escobedo said.
"Now it's one more: to win a gold medal."