Lorenzo Sotomayor: Boxer who followed heart - Daily Nation

Lorenzo Sotomayor: Boxer who followed heart into Rio final

Saturday August 20 2016

Azerbaijan's Lorenzo Sotomayor Collazo celebrates winning against Cuba's Yasnier Toledo during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Men's Light Welterweight (64kg) Quarter-final 4 match at the Riocentro - Pavilion 6 in Rio de Janeiro on August 16, 2016. PHOTO | YURI CORTEZ |

Azerbaijan's Lorenzo Sotomayor Collazo celebrates winning against Cuba's Yasnier Toledo during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Men's Light Welterweight (64kg) Quarter-final 4 match at the Riocentro - Pavilion 6 in Rio de Janeiro on August 16, 2016. PHOTO | YURI CORTEZ |  AFP

By AFP
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RIO DE JANEIRO

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.

But he has not forgotten his roots, saying: "My life has changed 100 percent, but I owe everything I am to Cuba.

"That's where I learned everything, it's my home country. Due to the circumstances, I am in another country, fighting for different colours."

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.

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 her there.

The dramatic lifestyle change 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.

The boxer said that Javier Sotomayor, who won high-jump gold at Barcelona 1992, was a cousin of his father's and also an inspiration.

"He doesn't know much about boxing, he's a jumper. He's just told me to keep focused to fight my style of boxing and to always look forward," said Sotomayor.

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