Hairon Socarras never walks alone
(Photo credit: Reynaldo Sanchez) By Ed Hernandez: “Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres.” Translation: “Tell me with whom you walk and I’ll tell you who you are.”
This pearl of wisdom is often expressed from the lips of nurturing Hispanic parents concerned over the well-being of their children who find themselves trapped in a hostile environment. It’s a reminder that life is rarely a journey in which we brave alone the obstacles placed on our path. Instead, one’s ability to succeed is influenced by those individuals who surround and support you. Sometimes those who accompany you are physically present but other times, they live within you.
Hairon Socarras (El Majá), a young, talented Cuban boxer is opening eyes in the boxing world. At 13-0-1, he already holds the WBA Super Bantamweight Fedecaribe Championship belt which he earned in March 2014 when he defeated Aneudy Matos in Santo Domingo in a fourth round knockout. Opponents in his other bouts have suffered a similar fate falling victim to Socarras’ dazzling defensive skills; raw power and tenacity that have made him one of the most closely watched prospects in boxing today.
Hairon’s present success is part of a long journey that molded him into a man during a time when others his age were enjoying their adolescence playing video games. At fourteen years of age, having been in the United States for just three years, Hairon experienced a moment that would forever change his life. “My father was yelling in the middle of the night. I ran to his bedroom and found him frantically trying to revive my mother who was unconscious from an asthmatic episode. I was holding my mother and helping my father with the oxygen mask but she never woke up” Odalys, Hairon’s mother, had overcome bouts of asthma in the past, but on this fateful night, at just thirty-two years old, she would not survive, leaving her husband Javier, Hairon, and his four year old brother to endure an odyssey that would have crippled many families.
While Javier worked long, backbreaking hours as a landscaper, Hairon shared the responsibilities of fatherhood by taking care of his younger brother. “I would take my brother to school, dress him, make him breakfast, pick him up from school, cook, and help him with schoolwork, while my father worked trying to support us. I also went to school and had to do my homework.” Despite that busy daily routine, Hairon would continue with an intense training schedule and fight in as many amateur matches that he could, a routine that was nothing new to him. Until the time she passed away, his mother and father would attend every one of his boxing matches since he was eight years old. He fought at least one hundred amateur fights in Cuba, winning the Provisional Championship three times, and while in the states, fought another sixty amateur fights, winning the Florida Silver Glove Championship five times. He recalled how Odalys had always encouraged him, and shared his dream that one day he would be a world champion.
After his mother’s passing, Harion’s continued fighting in as many bouts possible, sharpening his boxing skills, and moving one step closer to his dream of becoming a world champion. But fate was not done inflicting pain and suffering on Hairon and his family, as Javier was laid off from work. Unable to pay the rent, Javier and the family moved into the second floor of the boxing gym where they lived for five months while Javier searched for a job. “I remember sleeping on a massage table while my father and brother slept on a sofa. It was a very tough time for us but it made me more determined. And if there was any good that came out that situation, it was that living in the gym made it easier to train.”
Even though Javier had always wanted his son to finish high school, Hairon decided that the only way to realize his dream and best help his family was to devote all of his time to boxing. “My decision was very difficult for my father who always wanted me to finish school but I knew that the only way I could one day be world champion and take care of my father and brother was to dedicate everything to boxing.”
Hairon plans one day to return to school, and serve a as a mentor to disadvantaged youth in his community who have faced similar obstacles that he has overcome. “Before, just winning a championship was all I thought about. But now winning it will mean more because I know that there are others who know my story, and will be motivated and inspired.”
During Hairon’s last bout, the spectators’ chants grew louder each round as Hairon began to pick apart his opponent with effective combinations and punishing body shots. Yet he seemed oblivious to the noise, being intent and focused on just his opponent. When asked if the crowd noise affects him and what it feels like to be in the ring, Hairon says, “There are voices that stand out from the crowd; I hear my trainer, my father and my brother. But I never feel alone in the ring.” As the referee raises Hairon’s arm acknowledging his victory, one can easily notice Odalys name tattooed to his forearm, and her name displayed on his boxing shorts. “You see, she is always with me, everywhere.”
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