Rubens Nicolas has had a series of bad breaks. Just when the boxer thinks he’s on the verge of achieving his goal of representing Haiti in the Olympics this summer, a setback tells him not so fast.
Nicolas left his friends and family in New York City last year to enhance his boxing career in Las Vegas. He quit his day job to make sure he qualifies for an Olympic bid in the heavyweight division.
The 28-year-old of Haitian descent won’t get a chance to give the Caribbean country its first boxing medal and third overall in the Summer Games.
Nicolas, who was born in Naples, Florida, was denied a passport and wasn’t exactly sure why.
“I was confused as to why, and I found out recently the reason was because they had a hard time verifying my citizenship,” Nicolas said. “To me, it sounds like an excuse. I submitted numerous documents, from birth certificate to school documents. It’s strange.”
After five months of waiting, Nicolas finally was approved for a passport last week, but it was too late. Nicolas missed two Olympic trials, one in Argentina in March and a second in Azerbaijan in June.
“I went through hell and back for five months,” Nicolas said. “I missed two qualifiers while my teammates were out competing.”
Nicolas had hopes of competing in the final qualifier in Venezuela this week, but that competition is only for professionals and semipro competitors from the World Series of Boxing. Professional boxers were recently allowed to compete in the Olympics.
The Las Vegas resident hasn’t given up on being in the ring in Rio de Janeiro come August. Nicolas is hoping for a wild-card spot to the Olympics because of his passport issues.
“If I can explain my situation to the boxer amateur association, maybe they can have pity so they could do me that favor,” Nicolas said. “They’ve done wild-card spots before.”
Even if Nicolas doesn’t get to Brazil, he’s honored that the Haitian national team asked him to represent the country.
The 201-pounder grew up with boxing to stay out of trouble in Florida. He idolized Andre Berto, the two-time welterweight champion of Haitian descent. Berto is one three boxers to represent Haiti in the Olympics.
“Coming up as a young teenager in the amateurs, Andre Berto was someone I looked up to,” Nicolas said. “Watching him in the 2004 Olympics made me want to one day represent Haiti.”
Haiti is well represented in the pro ranks. Along with Berto, Adonis Stevenson, Jean Pascal and Edner Cherry are other notable boxers with a Haitian background.
Nicolas, who trains at Heavy Hitters Boxing Gym, said the sacrifices were worth it to pursue his Olympic dreams. He’s still debating whether to turn professional or continue competing as an amateur. He plans on fighting in other international competitions to represent Haiti.
“There are days I’m discouraged, but when I think about the prize, that keeps me going,” Nicolas said. “Representing Haiti keeps me motivated. If it doesn’t work, I can always go pro. I think I’ll do better there.”
Contact Gilbert Manzano at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0492. Follow him on Twitter: @gmanzano24