LONDON (Reuters) - After friends and neighbors in Cleveland raised over $8,000 to fly his mother and sister to London and pay for their stay, there was no way Terrell Gausha was going to let them down when he took to the Olympic ring for the first time on Saturday.
The 24-year-old middleweight didn’t disappoint but he left it mighty close.
Trailing Andranik Hakobyan by a single point with a round to go, Gausha came out swinging and floored the rangy Armenian twice in the final minute, the second forcing the referee to stop the contest just as the final bell was about to be rung.
“Aw man that’s amazing,” Gausha said when told by reporters that the clock read zero seconds when he knocked Hakobyan out, the first fight of the Games to fail to go the distance.
“I kind of have a mental clock in my head, I’ve been around the game for a while but that was cutting it close... I knew I had to leave it all in the ring.”
With the British crowd seeming to adopt the Armenian boxer for the evening, matching sporadic chants of “U.S.A” with chants of “Ar-men-ia” that rang twice as loud, Gausha at least knew he had his a whole city behind him back home.
They sold t-shirts and made donations to make sure Gausha’s mother Teretha and sister Talisha made it to London. Teretha even pitched in by selling barbecue chicken meals for $8 apiece.
Draped in an American flag and hoarse after cheering her son on, daycare worker Teretha said afterwards that all the generous fund raising had been worth it.
“He had me worried at first, but then that last round... I knew he was going to pull it off,” she told Reuters as she waited for her son to come out the dressing rooms.
Ranked outside the International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) top tier of fighters and facing Indian police officer and 2009 World Championship bronze medalist Vijender in the next round, Gausha may need to summon another stunning knockout on Thursday but his mother is in no doubt about how far he is going to go.
“He’s going to bring the medal,” she said.
Reporting by Padraic Halpin, Editing by Nigel Hunt