Boxer who followed heart into Rio Olympics 2016 Final

Sotomayor will face Uzbekistan`s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov in Sunday`s gold-medal clash.

AFP| Updated: Aug 20, 2016, 00:08 AM IST
Boxer who followed heart into Rio Olympics 2016 Final

Lorenzo Sotomayor was born in a rough neighbourhood of Havana, learnt how to box on the streets of the capital and is a relative of Cuban high-jump hero Javier Sotomayor.

On Friday the gangly 31-year-old surged into the Rio Olympic light-welterweight final for Azerbaijan after winning his semi-final on unanimous points.

Sotomayor will face Uzbekistan`s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov in Sunday`s gold-medal clash.

His official Olympic biography says he moved from Cuba to Azerbaijan in 2013 to give himself a better chance of qualifying for Rio -- less competition for Olympic places -- joining decorated Cuban coach Peter Roque Otano in Baku.

But that is only part of the story.

Sotomayor was a promising boxer back in his homeland but gave up the fight game to take care of his young family who were struggling in Cuba`s moribund economy and he ended up selling whatever he could on the streets.

"I was not finished because I was a bad boxer, I was finished because I had to provide for my babies," he said ahead of the Rio Games.

"I had no time to train. Every day I went to the street to sell things, shoes, dresses, anything. `You need, I get.` I earned little money but we got by."

And then his life turned upside down when he met and fell in love with a Russian girl visiting Cuba, who lived in Azerbaijan, and he followed his heart.

The dramatic lifestyle change -- and love -- has triggered an upturn in Sotomayor`s fortunes.

Since switching nationalities, he has enjoyed the finest results of his career, winning gold at the European Games last year and becoming a fans` favourite in his adopted homeland.

He is now guaranteed at least silver for Azerbaijan.