Juan Evangelista Venegas – Olympic Medal Winner
Not many people associate Puerto Rico with the Olympics but this great country has long been a participant in the greatest international sporting competition in the world. Success at the Olympics has enabled some famous Puerto Ricans to enjoy widespread popularity outside heir own country. Juan Venegas is one of those legendary Puerto Rican Olympians.
Juan Evangelista Venegas was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in about 1928. However, he was certainly not born into a life of luxury. Venegas grew up in the poorer parts of San Juan where bare-fist fighting was commonplace. Organized boxing was a popular sport among his contemporaries and many of the youth in his neighborhood viewed boxing as the only way to achieve a better life and escape poverty.
Venegas shared dreams of boxing stardom. One of his most admired Puerto Rican boxers was Sixto Escobar who was the very first international boxing champion from Puerto Rico. However, unlike many of his contemporaries, Venegas had a flair for the sport and very soon after he began competitive boxing, his unmatched abilities began attracting the attention of the Puerto Rico Olympic Team. In 1948, Venegas earned high praise and was chosen for the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee delegation.
The 1948 Olympics were very special for Puerto Rico since they were the first international sporting event in which the island was able to participate as a nation. IN previous Olympiads, the country was required to participate under the American flag.
The 1948 Olympic Games were held in London and there were only three delegates from the developing nation of Puerto Rico. Juan Evangelista Venegas was not only privileged to be among them – he was blessed with the ability to fight his way to the top. By the end of the competition he had claimed the bronze medal in the Bantamweight division of the boxing event. This was Puerto Rico’s very first Olympic medal and Juan Venegas victory brought him the fame and fortune that he’d always dreamed of as a youth. It also placed Puerto Rico on the Olympic map as Puerto Rico garnered the respect it deserved from other competing nations.
After the Olympic Games, Venegas returned to his home country and decided to embark on a short career as a professional boxer. He fought only eight matches but lost two of these bouts.
Today the Puerto Rican Boxing Committee honors this great athlete’s memory by sponsoring the Juan Evangelista Venegas boxing tournament. The tournament is designed to bring future Olympic boxing prospects to the fore and to help them improve their skill so that they can represent their country with pride.