“Then COVID arrived,” says Luis Pita Oliva to NYF, continuing to share about his journey from Cuba to America, “and it was hard, a madness!
‘I had to rummage here there, debts I had, rent, then three months later they let us go out more often to the streets. I started working as a boxing coach part time. Little by little, I was settling down, I had a woman, two stepdaughters, and for awhile I had the life that anyone would want a family wants. Had a little money, calm, what else can a man wish for?
‘But at night I was tormented by many things. Many days I tortured myself while I looked at the ceiling feeling capable of more. I'm not hungry anymore. I'm sleeping in a comfortable home with a woman who would give her life for me, with some in-laws who loved me. But.
‘I felt free, so I decided that Peru wasn't the end of my destiny.
‘It hurt me a lot to leave and I left for the United States in February 2022. I entered on March 23 through the border of Yuma, Arizona.
‘I hadn't been boxing for awhile because before leaving Peru I had to stop training and get three part-time jobs, one at night.
‘And when I arrived my mom needed money and since they had lent me money in Peru I had to pay that debt to get rid of that problem, so I concentrated on paying and then boxing
‘I arrived in Texas and moved to Louisville, Kentucky later because I knew some people there. In Texas, I was really alone, sleeping in my car and bathing in the gym.
‘I arrived in Louisville and resumed training in January 2023 after being inactive for two years I arrived at 240 pounds, went down to 200 then to 175 and then 168!
So, what are Luis’ goals in boxing? “My goals in boxing are to leave my name reflected in the history of boxing,” he says, “that my name is remembered for all eternity. But beyond a legacy and being a world champion, that my name inspires people to promote unity and respect and change the world for the better.
The fighter adds more to his sum-up: “I never wanted to be alive. I came to think that everything that happened in my life was normal. I slept with a rope and a knife under my bed because I felt that I was at the limit, I felt that death was better than being alive. Yes, in my head everything was very confused.
‘So how am I today? I feel a tranquility that no one could imagine. The few people who know the truth of my story told me, ‘Luis, forgive and continue with your life, turn the page,’ but although it took me awhile to forgive, in my heart, I did. But that didn’t make me feel free of my memories.
‘I thought I could hide everything, I thought I could tell myself that it’s just a figment of imagination, that I could sleep and forget everything about the past…but after you published the story, I went back to talk to the people who knew the truth to find out if I did the right thing.
‘I called them on a shared video call. I didn't cry until I hung up so they wouldn't be sad and they told me, ‘My child, you did well, it's fine. You were able to close the past.’
‘I went to bed and slept and it was the first night that I didn't have nightmares about the past, I didn't wake up sweating, I didn't wake up scared. Now, I'm not afraid to go back to sleep. I woke up like a new person with a calmer mind, even my body.”
POSTSCRIPT: I chatted with Michael Reyes, the promoter of Luis Pita Oliva. I relayed to him what Oliva said about feeling a burden lifted.
Reyes told me this… “I’ve regularly seen Luis doing gym work at like 3:30 am, I asked him what’s up. He said he has trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep. Funny, for the last week or so, after the story came out, no late night gym visits. He’s well rested!”
Reyes laughed and we both spoke on the satisfaction that comes from seeing a decent person you know in pain, and getting some relief. “This is a thing so many people don’t see, people coming to America and fighting, really, really hard, for a better life,” the Massachusetts native Reyes continued. “And yeah, boxing gives massive benefits to people like Luis Pita Oliva. He might be Reyes Boxing Promotions first world champ, he’s long and strong and works hard. That aside, he’s already won, coming here through hellish high waters, being homeless, all that… It shows character and courage! I’m proud of him, and proud of my commitment to people like him, true fighters.”