The hardest part for Ron Siler was when his kids came to visit. They had to see their father through the glass, at the prison where he was serving a sentence for assault. His once promising boxing career seemed over.

"He felt it. He knew what his kids were feeling," said Siler's father, Ron Sr.

Siler's children -- he has five and a sixth on the way -- watched on TV yesterday as he opened his quest for a gold medal with a 32-18 decision over Australia's Bradley Hore in a first-round flyweight fight.

"My aunt said she was going to have a big party at her house so my family could all come over and watch," Siler said.

A bronze medalist in the 2001 world championships, Siler's chance of being an Olympian seemed over when he was sentenced to 17 months in a Cincinnati prison for assault following a brawl.

His father and others pleaded with the judge to let him out early, telling him that his only chance to stay out of street and gang life was to be a boxer. Siler, 24, was released in January 2003 after nine months, and his father took him to every tournament he could just to keep him busy and out of trouble.

It paid off when the 5-foot-3 boxer made the U.S. team.

"It means a whole new second chance in life for him and his kids," Ron Sr. said. "There wasn't anything he could do for his kids when he was locked up."

American Ron Siler, left, gets on track with a win over Aussie Bradley Hore.