His Abuelito Worked In The Fields And He Wants To Pay Him Back With A Gold Medal
Meet Carlos Balderas, one of the boxers representing Team USA at the Olympics.
Balderas, a lightweight, could be the first American boxer to win an Olympic gold medal since Andrew Ward, who struck gold at the 2004 Athens games.
The 19-year-old from Santa Maria, Calif., wants to bring back a gold medal from Rio. Not just for the U.S., but to pay back his family for all the sacrifices they’ve made.Credit: USA Boxing / YouTube
In the ’50s, Balderas’ grandfather, David, left his wife and eight children to look for work in the United States. He eventually saved enough money to bring his family — including Carlos’ father, Zenon — to the U.S.
David Balderas, who is now 88 years old, worked in California’s strawberry fields for decades to earn a living for his family.
Carlos’ mother left his family when he and his brother were toddlers, so his grandparents helped raise him. But he was a handful.
According to his father, Carlos was a happy, hyper kid who got into a few fights when he was picked on at school.
Carlos’ father and abuelito decided to enroll him in boxing classes, figuring it would teach young Carlos some discipline. It worked.
When Carlos was 7 years old, he and his older brother Jose were taken to a local boxing gym. The owner told them to return when the boys were older, but their father noticed a boy around the same age training in the gym. The owner explained that it was his grandson, who had already been training for months. According to the Los Angeles Times, Carlos’ father made a bet with the owner: if Carlos could beat the kid in a fight, he wanted to owner to let them stay to train. Carlos won.
Carlos actually fell in love with the sport, and soon, his father and uncle became his trainers.Credit: USA Boxing / YouTube
When it became clear that Carlos was a standout, the Balderas family made sacrifices to ensure Carlos had every opportunity to succeed.
“My dad had to sell his car… my grandpa had to sell his watch one time to give us a little bit of money to leave to a tournament,” said Carlos Balderas in an interview with USA Boxing.
Throughout the years, Balderas has had to make a few sacrifices of his own. Due to an intense training schedule, he didn’t quite have a normal teenage life.
But Balderas told Team USA he understands it’s all part of the plan. “I try to keep my body very healthy and try to be very dedicated. I stay away from parties and stay away from liquor.”
All the work has already led to his Olympic dream becoming a reality. It’s a dream he predicted two years ago:
Balderas, who is blessed with fast hands and quick reflexes…Credit: Pepe Sulaiman Boxing / YouTube
That’s him in red.
Has already proven he has what it takes to medal, winning his first two fights in Rio.
If Balderas wins his next bout, he’s guaranteed a medal. And for the 19-year-old fighter who usually speaks with his fists, standing on the podium in Rio is his way of telling his family “Thank You.”
“My family came from nothing. It feels like, this is sort of a way to pay them back. I feel like this is only halfway. The other half is arriving in Brazil and bringing back a medal,” said Balderas to USA Today.
Watch Carlos Balderas and his family speak about their road to Rio:
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