When Abner Mares and Leo Santa Cruz face off this Saturday in the world famous Staples Center, more than an awesome, fan crazed boxing clinic will be on display for all to watch and enjoy.
The spectacular, scorched earth fighting styles are just a testament to the true exhibition delivered from the ever-winning Premier Boxing Champions promotion, demonstrating that Mexicans are a dominant part of the heart and soul of the boxing industry.
With the influx of televised mixed martial arts (MMA) promotions, boxing has been likened to your father's or even your grandfather’s sport; antiquated when compared to the many other fighting styles presented in MMA. If this axiom was indeed true and you scoured the world to find the oldest living boxing elder, he or she would probably be Mexican.
According to the Wall Street Journal, boxing is the second-most popular sport in Mexico after soccer. When Floyd Mayweather performed a boxing clinic on rising Mexican contender Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, 8 out of 10 households in Mexico with televisions watched the event on Televisa according to Alvarez’ promoter, Golden Boy Promotions. That equated to 22.1 million viewers with a ridiculous 41.1 rating and 77 share. Up until the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight this past May, the Mayweather-Alvarez match-up was the highest grossing pay-per-view event in history, with 2.2 million buys, generating $150 million.
Need further evidence that boxing is popular with the Mexican population? Outside of Mayweather-Pacquiao, the highest grossing PPV fight of all time (over 4.44 million buys and over $400 million in revenue), four of the next ten highest grossing PPV fights in history involved Mexican/Mexican-American fighters. The aforementioned Mayweather-Alvarez fight ranks second, Mayweather-De La Hoya ranks third (2.48 million buys, $168 million), Oscar De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad ranks ninth (1.4 million buys, $64 million) and Pacquiao-Marquez III ranks 11th (1.25 million buys, $75 million).
While it's obvious that Floyd Mayweather is a major component of the PPV success, the heritage of the opponent speaks volumes in the event results.
With over 200 world champions hailing from Mexico or of Mexican descent, boxing is saturated in red, white and green, south of the border style.
(Photo credit: taringa.net)
So what is it about boxing that attracts the Mexican audience and inspires such pride?
Juan Angel Zurita, in his 2002 article "Mexican Boxing: Our Pride and Passion," wrote:
"Personally, not many feelings compare to the energetic rush that I experience during a boxing match with an arena filled with other Mexican/Mexican-American boxing fans. When I hear the rancherita ring walk music or when I see the beautiful green, white and red, something inside of me explodes. It's a very powerful feeling. It's pride, fervor and machismo wrapped up into one feeling. One has to experience it to understand it. For Mexican/Mexican-American boxing fans, it is very important that our ring warriors proudly represent our people and our culture. It allows us to identify with something positive, something victorious."
It's amazing to see how a sport can bring people from different generations together. First generation, third generation, recent immigrants, they all unite to support fighters with red, white and green blood coursing through their veins. Gregory S. Rodriguez, in his doctorate dissertation "Palaces of Pain: Arenas of Mexican American Dreams," gave a detailed and thoughtful explanation of Mexican affinity towards boxing:
"boxing contributed to the restructuring or reproduction of ethnic, gender and national identities over the course of the 20th century. Boxing arenas became metaphors for the struggles over the meaning of race, gender, and citizenship that has preoccupied United States society in the twentieth century an examination of Mexican-American boxing industries highlights the ways ethnic, familial, linguistic and class dynamics influenced Mexican-Americans and Mexican immigrants in negotiating new urban identities through popular culture."
(Photo credit: Suzanne Teresa, Premier Boxing Champions)
Leo Santa Cruz recently echoed these sentiments at a press conference for his bout this Saturday against 3-division world champion, Abner Mares.
“This fight means so much to me because I know it is what the fans have been waiting for,” said Santa Cruz. “The opportunity to fight at STAPLES Center against a Mexican warrior and great fighter in Abner Mares is one that I plan on taking very seriously. We have been preparing for this moment for a very long time and I’m so glad it’s finally here. A win is going to take one of us to the next level.”
A two-division world champion with a fan-friendly style, the 26-year-old Santa Cruz won his first world title in 2012 before adding another belt in 2013, which he defended four times. Unbeaten as a pro, Santa Cruz moved up in weight in his last fight and handedly defeated Jose Cayetano on the pay-per-view undercard of the record-breaking Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight. Born and raised in Los Angeles to Mexican parents, Santa Cruz faces the toughest challenge of his career when he squares off against the Mexican warrior Mares.
Abner Mares was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and now fights out of Downey, Calif. Mares first tasted world championship gold in 2011 when he beat Joseph Agbeko to win the bantamweight world title. He continued his rise up the pound-for-pound list with wins over Anselmo Moreno and Daniel Ponce De Leon to win world titles at super bantamweight and featherweight respectively. The 29-year-old has won three straight fights including his first PBC appearance in a victory over Arturo Reyes in March. He will look to add another career milestone and take hometown bragging rights by defeating the unbeaten Santa Cruz.
(Photo credit: Premier Boxing Champions)
This featherweight match-up will be one that hopefully goes into the history books as one of the greatest and there are many that match the timing when a division is as deep as the current boxing featherweight division is.
Take Salvador "Salva" Sanchez, the Featherweight champion that died in a car wreck at 23 years old. Some say he could have been the greatest Featherweight of all time had he not been taken from the world so soon. Making his professional debut at the age of 16 in May of 1975, he amassed a record of 18-0 before losing a split decision to Antonio Becerra for the vacant Mexican bantamweight title in 1977.
Following the loss, Sanchez moved to Featherweight and the rest is history. He won the last 24 fights of his short career picking up the WBC featherweight title in 1980 over Danny Lopez. He defended it nine times and put on one of the greatest featherweight bouts in history when he knocked out Puerto Rican Wilfredo Gomez in the eighth round.
Look at Vicente Saldivar, who stood 5’3 and with only 40 fights to his career elevated the featherweight division and the folklore of the Mexican boxer. Salvidar became the best featherweight in the world in 1960’s when he upset Ismael Laguna and destroyed world champion Sugar Ramos for the WBC and WBA featherweight titles. This was after he won the Mexican featherweight title in 1964 via TKO.
He defended these titles seven times collectively and defeated all who stood in front of him over the next four years. He retired in 1968 and in his absence saw the rise of Australia’s Johnny Famechon and Cuba’s Jose Legra. Salvidar came back and defeated them both to solidify his legacy.
Of course, we cannot mention Mexican boxing without its looming larger than life icon, Julio Cesar Chavez. JCC took the super featherweight and light welterweight divisions to new heights and in most fan's eyes, especially those of Mexican fans, is the true definition of TBE or “The Best Ever.”
From his remarkable record of 107-6-2 with 86 wins by way of knockout, JCC embodies the spirit of Mexican boxers as warriors who trudged through and finish in a veteran’s manner. From crowds that have numbered 137,000, like when he fought Greg Haugen in 1993, or his record of 27 successful title defenses and an 89-0-1 undefeated streak, its easy to see that Mexican boxing tradition has his Statesmen.
“When I beat Julio Cesar Chavez there were even people in my own family who wouldn’t talk to me. That tells you what a god he was" said Oscar De La Hoya, owner of Golden Boy Promotions and former Mexican-American champion, to The Wall Street Journal.
The list of names is long and significant, some of the best in history etching their names on the scroll of greatness. In addition to the aforementioned JCC, De La Hoya and Salidvar, this impressive list includes names such as "The Baby Faced Assassin" Marco Antonio Barrera, Antonio Margarito, Jose Luis "El Terrible" Castillo, Erik Morales and Fernando Vargas.
(Photo credit: Will Hart)
Some were taken from us too soon, like "Salva", but with with a growing roster that includes Juan Manuel Marquez, Jorge Arce, JCC Jr., Miguel "Mikey" Angel Garcia, Jhonny Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Santa Cruz, Mares and fast rising fighter Oscar Valdez, the Mexican tradition in boxing is solidified and shining brightly.
(Photo credit: Top Rank/HBO Boxing)
This Saturday, Mexico’s tradition of pugilistic glory will return under the bright lights, live and free for all to watch on ESPN. Don’t be surprised if you see the phantoms of Ruben Olivares or Carlos Zarate haunt the punching output and stamina of both men. After all, if any ground is truly hallowed it should be when two Mexican fighters put it all on the line in boxing’s true Field of Dreams.
Zurita stated "We continue to love this sport because it represents us with an unrivaled passion. No other sport makes us feel this great about ourselves. Not many sports bring an entire culture together. Boxing is the exception."
While boxing has been ruled by green, there's another place for the color in the sport, and that's on a flag which instills pride in its fighters and in its people.
There's a reason why Floyd always fought in May and September, and a big part of it was painted in red, white and green.
(Photo credit: The Boxing Scene)