By David Epstein
August 09, 2008

BEIJING -- It's boxing that gets 73-year-old Juan Leon Estrada out of bed each day. Not his boxing -- his son Shawn's. On Saturday afternoon, Shawn Estrada entered the hockey-puck shaped Worker's Gymnasium in Beijing to the loudest roar of the middleweight session, partly because he had nine family members present, including his mother, two aunts, and two uncles. But not Dad.

Juan Leon Estrada is back in Los Angeles waging his own fight against cancer, as his heart, kidney and liver fail him. "Doctors gave him a few months to live," says Estrada, 23. In Shawn's room in the Olympic Village, he has a boxing glove signed by members of his family. His father wrote, in Spanish, "I gotta' get up every morning because of you."

And after Estrada's dominating 10-2 victory in the first round of the Olympic tournament over Argentina's Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna, the elder Estrada can wake up for at least another week to a son in contention for a medal.

Estrada improved to 2-0 against Maderna -- he beat him 4-1 earlier this year at the Americas Qualifier II -- by working around the outside of the ring, and scoring with surgical counterpunches whenever Maderna lunged inside to attempt a combination. Maderna eventually resorted to clinching for his defense, perhaps because, as Team U.S.A. head coach Dan Campbell says, he knew that Estrada was stronger inside, so he didn't want to trade punches.

After his victory, Estrada joked that his father was "probably out running right now" with excitement. The father and son spoke the night before the fight, and Juan Leon told Shawn "'Buena suerte,'" Shawn says, "good luck, even though he said I don't need it."

Estrada, a first generation American, will probably be able to use a little luck in his next career as well, to go with his bravery. The son of a factory cutter --"just a normal Mexican," as Estrada calls his father -- is studying fire technology and training to become a firefighter.

If he wins his next bout, Estrada will have a fire to put out in the ring, as he'll have to face two-time world champion Matvey Korobov, of Russia. Korobov today demolished Sweeden's Naim Terbunja 18-6 in much the same way Estrada beat Maderna, with pinpoint counterpunching from the perimeter of the ring.

Win or lose, Estrada is sure get another resounding ovation for his next fight, on August 16 against Britain's James Degale. And, as he did today, he is sure to look up at his family after every round for strength. In his mind's eye, he'll see Juan Leon Estrada sitting right there.

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