When Vicente “El Loco” Mosquera of Panama City won the WBA super featherweight title from Yodsanan “3-K Battery” Nanthachai of Thailand at Madison Square Garden in New York on April 30, he made history in more ways than one. Besides being the first Panamanian to win a world title at the Mecca of Boxing since Roberto Duran in 1972, Mosquera became the second Panamanian to be crowned with a title in one weekend. The day before, Roberto “The Spider” Vasquez won the vacant WBA light flyweight title with a tenth round knockout of Beibis Mendoza in Panama City.

“This is a great thing for me, and a great thing for my country,” said a jubilant Mosquera. “Winning the title is great, but winning it at Madison Square Garden, where the great Roberto Duran won his first title, makes it even more special.”

Promoter Porfirio Betegon said there would be bedlam in the streets when news of Mosquera’s fight made its way back home. Not only did Mosquera, now 21-1-1 (10 KOs), garner a crown, he did so in most exciting fashion.

He dropped the former champion, now 44-3-1 (36 KOs), in the first round, both fighters were down in the third, and Nanthachai hit the deck again in the eleventh. When the dust settled, Mosquera won a unanimous decision in the most exciting bout of the card, which was headlined by the WBA heavyweight title fight between John Ruiz and James Toney.

As important as this fight was for Mosquera on a nationalistic level, from a personal perspective it was equally important. His father, who guided him into boxing at the age of eleven, had always told him that he would someday be a world champion. Even when Mosquera doubted himself, which wasn’t often, his father’s words resonated with him and propelled him forward.

Although boxing kept the 25-year-old Mosquera on the straight and narrow some of the time, he still had no problem finding trouble. Just four years ago he was released from prison, where he served two years for assault with a knife. And two years ago he survived four gunshot wounds, all of which were below the waist, that were pumped into him by a soccer player who, according to Mosquera, was jealous of all the attention he was garnering as an athletic hero.

While recovering from his wounds, Mosquera was not so sure he would he able to continue his boxing career. But, he says, the words of his father and the encouragement of his mother, as well as his girlfriend Anaika, two children Edwin, 2, and Aris, 4, and the entire Panamanian boxing community, provided him the impetus for his comeback from the abyss.

“People say if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere,” said Betegon, a former newspaperman. “But Vicente comes from Curundu, the worst ghetto in Panama, maybe even the world. If you can make it out of Curundu, you can make it anywhere.”

“This is very, very big,” added former lightweight title challenger Miguel Callist, a still active pro with a record of 17-5-1 (13 KOs). “Vicente is like Jack Johnson, Bernard Hopkins, Mike Tyson and Chico Corrales. He came off the streets and out of jail to become a world champion. It will be Carnivale for a long, long time.”