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  • After the awards ceremony, Carlos Mina visited the kids of Isla Trinitaria

    After the awards ceremony, Carlos Mina visited the kids of Isla Trinitaria's boxing gym, in one of Guayaquil's poorest neighborhoods. | Photo: La Gallera Producciones

Before rapping and putting on the gloves, the boxing champion used to sing folk songs in buses as a child in a bid to make a living.

On Wednesday Ecuador's Olympic Committee named boxer Carlos Mina as that country's Male Athlete of the Year.

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“I am glad that people have recognized me as one of the best athletes in the country; it was the result of a lot of commitment, of my determination to keep training every day, and it has paid off in competitions,” said Mina, 24, after receiving the prize from Ecuador's Minister of Sports, Xavier Enderica, in Guayaquil.

“Still, tomorrow is another day and I would be proud for the next person to win the prize,” he told teleSUR.

Mina shone during his skillful performance at this year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where he ranked fourth — only one fight away from becoming the second Ecuadorean athlete ever to win an Olympic medal.

The athlete was already locally famous under his rapper's name “Jeanthes Space,” after he performed part of the soundtrack of “Tola Box,” a documentary focusing on three Ecuadorean boxers, including Mina.

Mina's taste for hip hop was encouraged by one of the country's biggest MC's, Guanaco MC, who first hired Mina for a video because of his boxing skills. Mina soon took up rapping as Guanaco's protege.

Through Guanaco's “Hip-Hop Alliance for the Streets,” which provides underprivileged kids with hip-hop workshops, Mina felt he could also produce his own rap, and both rappers eventually collaborated together for a track.

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As one of nine children from a very poor neighborhood in Puerto Quito, he used to sing in buses in a bid to make a living — not rap yet, but songs of Ecuadorean Rockolera legend Julio Jaramillo.

Then boxing rescued him. One day he randomly walked into a boxing gym, was offered gloves, started training and was soon winning competitions. He became the light heavyweight champion of Bolivarian Games at age 21.

Outspoken both in the ring and the studio, Mina is explicit about the dual barriers of poverty and racism.

“I don’t think it is right that poor kids have to make twice the effort to get what they want, to make a living … a kid from the block will only make it by sweating, by soaking his shirt, by competing against misery,” added Mina.

“Racism exists in the whole world, not only Ecuador, but I would like Ecuadorean people to look not at the color of the skin, but the color of the soul, that’s what should matter. Maybe if we had a Black president some day, people would realize that skin color does not matter,” he added.

"I don't know much about politics, but our governments should do more to address discrimination against people with no education. My mother has never touched a book in her life, and she cannot find a job."

Mina's fellow Rio Olympics team member, weightlifter Alexandra Escobar, was named Female Athlete of the Year.

Photos: Andres Diego Loor Moreira / La Gallera Producciones

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