Parents root from afar as Estrada wins

Times Staff Writer

BEIJING -- The closest Shawn Estrada got to his parents Saturday was the 2-inch viewfinder on his uncle Sergio Santoyo’s video camera.

His father Juan, who trained him and prodded him and dreamed of such success, should have been there when Estrada, an American middleweight, stepped through the ropes and into the Olympic boxing ring for the first time.

But, weakened by liver and kidney problems that doctors say should have killed him six months ago, he couldn’t make the 12-hour trip to China from his home in Bell.

Shawn’s mother Sandy was coming, she had promised.


“But she decided to stay home,” an aunt, Maria Rodriguez, said, “in case something happened to Juan.”

So they sent two aunts, two uncles, two friends and a message on a hand-held camcorder in their place.

“Shawn, I just want to say I’m so proud of you, mijo,” Sandy says in the video. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t win a medal. You made your dreams come true. I’m sorry, Shawn, that I can’t be with you in China. I love you.”

Estrada didn’t hear those words until after he had defeated Argentina’s Ezequiel Maderna, 10-2, in a first-round match that was more one-sided than the final score would suggest. But he felt their meaning even before leaving his Olympic village dorm, where he keeps a small shrine to his father.


“It makes me remember him. And all my family,” Estrada said. “It’s a very inspirational thing.

“I’m fighting for him and my daughter.”

But he was fighting in front of six other friends and family members, who braved all manner of personal discomfort to get to Beijing Workers’ Gymnasium in time for Estrada’s bout, the fourth of the Games.

“We haven’t slept,” said Rodriguez, who, like the others, wore T-shirts with her nephew’s likeness as she posed for pictures behind an oversized American flag.


“Oh, and I fell and I got hurt,” she added, showing off a blackened pinkie and a scraped knee.

That was more damage than Estrada suffered against Maderna, with the East Los Angeles fighter jumping to a 7-0 lead early in the second round. He cruised from there, with the Argentine pawing and clinching as he searched in vain for an answer to Estrada’s attack.

“I kind of already [knew] what he had, what he was going to bring,” Estrada, 23, said of Maderna, whom he beat in a regional qualifier in April to earn his trip to Beijing. “But I kept my composure and finished the rounds ahead on points and I did what I had to do.

“I heard my family. I appreciate the big support. I try to look at them and it makes me fight a little bit more.”


Estrada won’t fight again until Saturday, when he meets Britain’s James DeGale for a place in the quarterfinals.

But light-welterweight Javier Molina of Commerce will be in the ring today, and he figures to face a much stiffer test from reigning bronze medalist Boris Georgiev of Bulgaria.

At 18, Molina is the youngest member of the U.S. team, and that could put him at a disadvantage against the 25-year-old Georgiev, a polished former European champion.

“He’s a kid who’s going to be going against men,” U.S. Coach Dan Campbell said of Molina. “He’s got to stay out of wrestling matches.”


To condition the slightly built Molina to the brawling, close-in style of boxing he figures to see here, Campbell brought 25-year-old welterweight Greg Carter to China to spar with him.

"[Carter] is very strong,” Campbell said. “We want him to rough [Molina] up and push him against the ropes and hold him there. Show him the stuff he’s going to experience in the ring.”