In a historic first, twin boxers from L.A. are hoping to fight at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing for opposing countries. And guess which ones? One, Javier Molina, will fight for the U.S. The other, Oscar Molina, the older twin by 2 minutes, hopes to fight for el tricolor of Mexico.
The 18-year-old U.S.-born brothers are promising amateur boxers. Sons of a Mexican immigrant boxer from the border state of Chihuahua, they train in Commerce, Calif., in Southeast L.A. County. The Molina family has vowed Oscar and Javier will never face off against each other in the ring, and now they may make Olympic history as the first set of twins to compete for different countries at the same Games, at different weight divisions.
After reading their story, wonderfully reported by Alan Abrahamson, I came away stirred by a complex mix of emotions, about brotherhood, immigration, and the graying boundaries of national identity. From Abrahamson's piece:
They train in one of the boxing world’s best-kept secrets, a clean, well-lighted gym that's tucked in behind a city library at the Bristow Park community center. Roberto Luna, who was once a member of an airborne unit in the U.S. Army and who stresses dignity, courtesy and sportsmanship, oversees the center.
At Luna’s gym, everyone greets everyone else with a handshake. Both Molina twins, with about a semester to go in high school, have proven excellent students.
"People have a misconception about what a boxer should be like," Luna said. "When you get a young kid and he understands discipline and respect, he can go a long way. The sport doesn't begin in the ring; the sport begins outside the ring. It starts with discipline and showing respect to everyone around you and being humble and learning."
The L.A. Times caught up with the twins in March. Kevin Baxter notes:
Five of the 11 boxers on Mexico's 2008 Olympic team -- including 19-year-old Javier Torres, who is also coached by Luna -- live permanently in the U.S. And it was another Mexican Olympian who trained at Commerce, Francisco "Panchito" Bojado, who first inspired the Molinas' Olympic dreams.