Puerto Rican brothers box their way to Olympics
Most 12-year-old boys in Puerto Rico play video games, watch movies or go to the beach for fun. The Arroyo twins were drawn to the boxing ring.
McJoe and McWilliams Arroyo, 22, have become among the best fighters in Puerto Rico, and sporting officials expect them to return with medals from the Beijing Olympics starting Friday.
Nevermind that the twins grew up in the northern coastal towns of Luquillo and Fajardo, which boast of some of the island's most popular beaches. The ring still held more attraction that the waves and sun.
``When we started boxing at 12 years old, it was more like a hobby,'' McJoe said. ``We didn't really see ourselves dedicated to this.
``But after the first six fights, we started realizing that we missed the ring in between fights. We would rest one or two weeks and then say, 'We miss the gym,' and then we realized we wanted to dedicate ourselves to this.''
Since then, the Arroyo brothers have dreamed of competing at the Olympics.
``We both did it at the same time, and not only that, we classified at the same event - the Chicago world championship last year,'' McJoe said.
Early on in their careers, they decided they would not be ranked in the same category to avoid fighting each other. McJoe fights in the 54-kilogram (119-pound) category, while McWilliams is in the 51-kilogram (112-pound) division.
McWilliams is known for his power punches, while McJoe's strength is his technique and defense.
``My favorite boxer is my brother, (but) when I step into the ring, I try not to emulate his style,'' McJoe said.
McWilliams has won only a few more medals than his brother. In 2005, he claimed a silver at the Pan American Boxing Championships in Brazil before winning his first gold at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Cartagena, Colombia the following year, defeating former Olympic champion Yan Barthelemy of Cuba.
He won another gold in the 2007 Panamerican Games in Rio de Janeiro prompting the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee to ask him to carry the team's flag at Beijing, making him the third boxer to receive the honor.
``This fills me with even more enthusiasm ... just to be asked to carry the flag, for me, that was enough. I dedicate this success to my parents,'' McWilliams said.
A foot injury in February worried the island's Olympic officials, but doctors and trainers stepped in quickly.
``I've been training for a month and a half now,'' McWilliams said. ``I joined the team a week ago because they were fighting in Europe. We're working together now, and that motivates me further because I'm no longer training alone.''
The twins are among five boxers participating in this year's games. Since 1948, Puerto Rican boxers have won five bronze medals and one silver. None have ever won a gold medal.
``Our minds are focused on winning medals. It's true that just participating in the games is a pleasure and something to be proud of, but we're not just going along for the ride,'' he said. ``We are determined to give it our all.''