They washed cars, put up posters and sold T-shirts to raise the money to be here. When it was finally time for Vicente Escobedo to fight, his family and friends welcomed him into the arena by waving his picture and chanting "Chente, Chente."
The American lightweight didn't let them down, dominating from the opening bell to stop Jose David Mosquera of Colombia in the third round and keep the United States undefeated through three Olympic bouts.
"I had to win today," Escobedo said. "That's what I came here to do."
Escobedo's mother and two brothers stood at a railing cheering him on, part of a handful of friends and family who got to Athens only after raising $25,000 in a series of fundraisers. He gave them all something to see, starting quickly and never letting up against Mosquera before the fight was finally stopped 31 seconds into the third round by the mercy rule with Escobedo ahead 30-10.
Escobedo advanced to a Friday fight against Rovshan Huseynov of Azerbaijan, while keeping intact a modest U.S. winning streak. Cuban fighters also remained unbeaten with Luis Vazquez winning a featherweight bout.
"We're on a winning streak and hopefully we can keep it up," said Escobedo, the son of immigrant farm workers who began boxing to get away from the temptations of gang life. "It gave me a lot of confidence knowing my teammates and family were cheering me on."