What Happened to Two-Time Olympic Gold Medalist Mario Kindelan, and Why Was He Forced to Sell His Gold Medal?

Published 12/04/2023, 5:54 AM EST

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Whenever the name Cuba appears, often the images of cigars, Fidel Castro, and baseball crop up. But in recent times, the island country has garnered a name for something else: boxing. It has left such a strong imprint on the sport, which reached its shores nearly a century ago. Among the most talked-about Olympic stories of all time, probably the most prominent remain the erstwhile Soviet Union’s success in gymnastics or the United States’ hegemony over track and field events. The Cuban boxing legend soon joined the list. It continues to this day. No other country has been as successful in amateur boxing as Cuba.

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Olympic after Olympic, Cuba’s medal tally in boxing stood way ahead of others. How did they manage to be so successful? A peculiar cocktail of limitations and assistance in their home country actually made it special for each boxer. But it is said that the same system also pushed many athletes toward adverse conditions. Such a glaring example recently caught everyone’s attention. Mario Kindelan won gold, not once but twice, for his country. But alas, life’s twists and turns got him to that point where he had no other option but to put his priceless medal for sale—the possessions that catapulted him to international fame.

‘Super’ Mario meets ‘King’ Khan

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It was former world champion Amir Khan who brought to light how Mario Kindelan reached out to him in Bahrain. In a clip that has since gone viral, the Olympic silver medalist narrated how the 52-year-old Southpaw from Cuba checked with him to see if he would be interested in buying the 2004 Athens Olympics gold medal. Incidentally, to earn that honor, Kindelan had beaten Khan. He needed $5,000 to build a house for his mother back home.

However, ‘King’ refused and told him that the gold medal belonged to him. Instead of him buying, he would give him $5,000 so that he could build a house. The only condition is that he won’t ever sell his gold medal to anyone. Khan said, “He says to me, I’m going to give you that gold medal. Just give me anything. Give me five thousand dollars. So you know what I’ve said to him: that gold medal belongs to him. He’s a champion. He beat me in the Olympics. So what I want to do is I want to give him five thousand dollars to build his house.

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The former world champion later clarified that it was not a publicity stunt. He felt compelled to take action after being deeply moved by Mario Kindelan’s narrative.

Mario Kindelan: An amateur and Olympic prodigy

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Often counted among the greatest amateur boxers of all time, the Cuban boxer’s record stood at 358 wins against 22 losses. He never lost a bout between 1999 and 2004. He retired soon after. Besides Amir Khan, Kindelan defeated several other future professional world champions, such as Felix Trinidad, Miguel Cotto, and Andreas Kotelnik. Before he defeated Amir Khan at the Olympics, Mario Kindelan had already beaten the British boxer once during a pre-Olympic tournament.

Like most Cuban boxers, he takes great pride in representing his country at the Olympics.

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Please give a big shout-out to Amir Khan, for his generosity. You may share your message in the comments section below.

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Written by:

Jaideep R Unnithan

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Edited by:

Snigdhaa Jaiswal

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