Olympics: Former street hawker wins first Brazil boxing gold

Gold medalist Robson Conceicao of Brazil poses with his medal on August 16.
Gold medalist Robson Conceicao of Brazil poses with his medal on August 16.PHOTO: REUTERS

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - Robson Conceicao said he felt like he was still in a dream after he became the first Brazilian to win Olympic boxing gold on Tuesday in front of an exhilarated Rio crowd.

The man who sold vegetables and popsicles on the streets as an impoverished child is now a national hero after he defeated Frenchman Sofiane Oumiha on unanimous points in a thrilling lightweight final showdown.

The 27-year-old, who previously said that growing up he once feigned an arm injury so he could get hospital treatment and then used the bandages to tape his hands for boxing training, was a deserved winner after another day of judging controversy in Rio.

"My life has changed with this, this is an incredible moment in my life," he told reporters. "I had a very difficult upbringing so this medal is not only a success for myself but a success for my family and all those people who took me to training, ever since I was a young boy.

"I am an Olympic champion so my life has changed for ever. It was an amazing crowd... an amazing day."

Brazil had only ever won one silver and three bronze medals before Conceicao's heroics.

Conceicao grew up fast hawking his meagre wares with his grandmother in the city of Salvador, in Brazil's north, knocking on car windows of drivers to sell them melting popsicles.

He paid tribute to the raucous crowd that filled the arena with a blaze of noise and yellow and blue colour, and to the people back in his home state who raised him in the most trying of circumstances.

"It was an incredible feeling to represent the whole of Brazil," said Conceicao. "Now I need to relax and wake up from this dream that I am experiencing and carry on boxing for the Brazilian national team and head to the next Olympics."

Bronze went to Cuba's Lazaro Alvarez - a semi-final victim of Conceicao's - and Otgondalai Dorjnyambuu of Mongolia.