LONDON – Heavyweight boxer Tumba Silva of Angola turned up in London this week exhilarated at the prospect of taking part in his first Olympic Games.
There was just one problem – he didn't have enough boxing gear to allow him to compete.
Olympic regulations state that every fighter must have two sets of their team uniform available ahead of every bout, in case one set becomes too bloodied or damaged during the course of the contest.
Silva had only been provided with one singlet by Angolan Olympic chiefs and did not have the means to purchase another. His plight was brought to the attention of a local sports store, whose owner stepped in to arrange a replacement for Silva.
"It was a pleasure for us to help him out and sort him out something to wear at the Olympics," said shop owner Ken Mills of Boxfit UK. "We found the kit that he needed and had his nation printed on the back."
Silva had a spare Angola patch that could be sewn onto the front of the shirt, meaning he is now able to concentrate on his first fight in the 91-kg heavyweight division.
Just making it to London it quite an achievement for Silva, given his lack of experience and the limited opportunities for boxers in his homeland. The 26-year-old has only seen limited international action and was discovered by British former world champion Chris Eubank.
An Angolan businessman recruited the eccentric Eubank to find promising talent in Angola with a view to developing them for the 2016 or 2020 Olympics.
However, Eubank found that Silva was already close to the standard required to compete at London, and encouraged him to focus on qualifying for the Games. Training though, came with problems of its own.
"Even the very basics were a struggle to get," Eubank said. "Punch bags? None. Training pads? None. Gloves? I could say yes, but in reality what they were using were old bandages wrapped around their fists. And even if there were gloves about, they could never be able to afford to buy them."
Eubank admits Silva will find it tough to match his trickier rivals in Olympic competition but insists his man has a puncher's chance because of his devastating power.
"Most people could outbox Tumba," Eubank said. "But if he hits you, then you are asleep for 15 seconds; the guy has got dynamite in his punches. If he hits you, he will knock you out."
Angola has never won a medal in any sport at the Olympics but a campaign has been launched by some of the country's wealthiest businessmen to try to change that by 2020.
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