From the gritty Boa Vista de São Caetano neighbourhood on the periphery of the tough north-eastern city of Salvador, to the top of the Olympic podium. From frustration at London 2012, to triumph at Rio 2016. Robson Conceição’s story is a classic of the genre, the man who became Brazil’s first Olympicboxing champion, against the odds.
In the lightweight gold medal bout on Tuesday (16 August) night, the 27-year-old was in control from start to finish, defeating Frenchman Sofiane Oumiha by a unanimous judges’ decision. It was a far cry from his first round exits at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
“É campeão!” (He’s champion!) the crowd chanted at eardrum-bursting levels in the packed Riocentro arena, saluting an emotional Conceição, for whom this was the culmination of a long and arduous journey.
It was Brazil’s third gold medal of the Games, following Monday night’s shock pole vault victory by Thiago Braz and the wildly celebrated judo title won by Rafaela Silva last week. Conceição said he had been inspired by Silva, who like him hails from humble background, in her case from the ‘City of God’ favela in Rio.
The stands inside Riocentro Pavilion 6 were filled with yellow shirts on Tuesday. Everyone knew that it could be a special night. “I think today will be a victory by knockout,” said a breathless Vinícius Alves, who donned a pair of boxing gloves, head protector and a Brazilian flag on his shoulders. “But I think it will be a tough fight,” he predicted. It was more straightforward that he expected.
The atmosphere was so overrun by Brazilian pride that in the fight before the final, between the Nigerian Efe Ajaba and Kazakh Ivan Dychko, the public went wild just to hear that one of the judges was Brazilian. Everything was a reason for celebration.