Report/Photos: Boxing Bob Newman
A contingent of four busloads of WBA convention delegates made the arduous journey to an impoverished neighborhood high in the mountains above Medellin, Colombia this morning.
The purpose of the trip was part of the realization of WBA president Gilberto Jesus Mendoza’s vision- to utilize boxing as a means to improve one’s lot in life. Several of the champions that have been on hand this week took part in the event.
After breakfast, four tour bus loads of delegates and several private cars made the trip up, up and further up the winding, guard rail-less roads to the neighborhood of domiciles nestled high in the mountainside above Medellin. It was not a trip for those susceptible to motion sickness or with a fear of heights. The roads were single lane and crowded with free roaming dogs, chickens, pedestrians and motor bikes. Motorcycle police escorts aided the trip, which still took nearly two hours to make. In the end, it was well worth it.
In a makeshift ring on the side of the mountain, President Mendoza and the champs greeted the children who belong to the “Camino al ring” (Way to the ring) group. The group looks to keep at risk children busy with physical activities, including boxing training, to make a difference in their lives.
The group initially made a presentation to the champs and Mendoza who were up in the ring. They had a large placard on which they spelled out “Vamos a hacerlo & Podemos a hacerlo,” (Let’s do it! We can do it!). Upon turning the placard around, a huge painting of the late WBA president Gilberto Mendoza was revealed, drawing emotional cheers. Several of the children then held up t-shirts emblazoned with their Camino al ring logo and a photo of one present champion. One by one, each youngster brought their t-shirt up to the ring and presented it to the champion whose likeness it bore.
Bernard Hopkins, Kina Malpartida, Jessica Bopp and other champs gave words of inspiration to the assembled youngsters. Afterward, champs left the ring and mingled with the children, signed autographs and even gave some boxing tips. Several of the kids asked for autographs of and pictures with referees, judges, anyone who they thought might be a boxing legend. Just as on the ride up the mountain, school kids, many of whom were dressed in Halloween costumes, greeted our departing caravan of strangers with cheers and waving frantically, as if they’d never seen outsiders in their remote village before. It was a magical moment for anyone witnessing this event, let alone participating one on one. If they live among the clouds, why can’t their dreams reach just as high?