LONDON—Osmar Bravo’s dazzling Olympic performance in the boxing ring Monday night is already legendary in Nicaragua. But what few Nicaraguan sports fans probably realize is that the Olympic boxer was encouraged to victory by a small group of British fans who electrified the crowd at Excel Stadium and gave Bravo an unlikely hometown advantage against his opponent from the Balkan peninsula.
The improvised Bravo fan club was born when an excitable group of English boxing fans started a thunderous “Bravo! Bravo!” chant that swept the stadium. As Bravomania grew in the later rounds of the fight, thousands of fans joined “La Barra Bravo” by standing and waving their shoes in the air to help motivate the Nicaraguan boxer to a stunning come-from-behind victory.
His British fans have since started an online Facebook fan page called “Northern boys love Bravo.”
“We are four boys who went to college together and have been friends since we were 16”, Paul Davies, a creator of the group explains. “One of our friends, Dave, is getting married this Saturday and so we brought him down to the Olympics for part of his ‘stag doo’.”
After spending a night watching boxing and enjoying a few pints of beer, the penultimate fight on the card was called: Osmar Bravo in the blue corner, against Montenegro’s Bosko Draskovic in the red. The question on the minds of those in the British stag party was, “Who should we root for?”
“In Great Britain, we love an underdog! We checked the odds on our phone and Bravo was the clear underdog. We decided to back him as soon as we saw his charisma and persona as he entered the ring,” Davies told The Nicaragua Dispatch in an interview.
That’s how it started, but the attraction became more fanatically intense when each placed a 50-pound bet on Bravo to win. Draskovic was the odds on favourite to win at 4-11. But Bravo offered an interesting punt to the lads, as £200 ($312) was collectively placed on the fighter with the odds of 2-1.
After the first round, things were not going too well for the Nicaraguan boxer or the British gamblers.
“When we heard the (first round) score, we knew we had to do more. So we shouted to everyone to join in with our Bravo chants,” Davies says.
The “Bravo! Bravo!” chants became so loud, they could be heard even by those watching the fight on television.
But it wasn’t enough to swing the momentum in Bravo’s favor. So the young fans tried a little harder to shake the rafters and give Bravo the emotional push he needed to fight back.
“With exactly two minutes left in the second round, we began the chant, ‘Shoes off if you love Bravo!’ This was accompanied by our shoes held high in the air. Others quickly followed removing their shoes and chanting “Shoes off if you love Bravo!”
With this odd chant thousands in the stands joined in and began waving their shoes above their heads for the unknown Nicaraguan boxer.
“I’d like to think we inspired Bravo and made him and his coaching staff feel like he was well supported and at home,” Davies said.
Indeed it worked. Bravo himself told The Nicaragua Dispatch afterwards that he could hear the chanting and it helped to motivate him. The boxer says the cheering was comforting and reminded him of being in his boxing gym back home.
After Bravo fought back to an impressive victory in the second and third rounds, Bravo’s British fan-club collected a tidy sum of £400 ($625) from their bet. “We got a very nice return on our stake! It certainly paid for our night out afterwards celebrating Bravo’s win.”
So what will Bravo’s fan club be doing for his next fight tomorrow? Well, one of the group will be walking down the aisle on his wedding day, but the Nicaraguan boxer won’t be too far from their minds as the clock ticks down to his 11 p.m fight.
“We will be placing another bet on him of course. The wedding will be put on hold and we will gather round a large screen,” Davies promised.
While Great Britain and Nicaragua may be over 5,000 miles away from one another, Osmar Bravo will always be remembered by four British lads and the thousands of other boxing fans who suddenly found themselves swept up in an emotional moment of shoe-swinging Bravomania.
When the Nicaraguan boxer steps out of his corner and stands face-to-face with Oleksandr Gvozdyk on Saturday, his fans will be taking off their shoes in preparation to cheer their newfound hero to victory once again.
David Hutt is a freelance writer from London, UK, who will be on the trail of Latin America during the next year and will be working as a tour guide in Leon, Nicaragua. Follow his travels and misadventures on his blog.