Mexico vs Puerto Rico: A Sweet Science With Bitter Chemistry

21.07.008 - By Vivek Wallace: In the world of sports there's only one thing that parallels the accomplishment of reaching ultimate supremacy in the form of a championship. That one thing is, always has been, and always will be, the passionate feeling relative to defeating an arch nemesis. It often seems that no matter how good or bad a team has been in the past, when faced by a rival, you're guaranteed to see the absolute best that each team has to offer because the premium penchant placed on victory in these wars can be no greater. In the good old days of the NBA there was the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, the Bulls-Pistons rivalry, and countless others. Fans of the NFL may remember some of the great moments of the past in the Cowboy-Redskins rivalry, the Dolphins-Jets rivalries, as well as the Raiders-Chiefs rivalries to name a few. In baseball, arguably the most prominent of them all would be the battle-fest between the RedSox and the Yankees.. But despite the fact that in all of those sports there are literally one group of men waging war against another, the most passionate rivalry involves a sport where there are simply two men involved. Perhaps that's what makes it such an anomaly. The mere fact that you have two men who literally carry the weight of a complete nation on their shoulders who know that as good as they both are, in the end, only one hand can be raised. For all the great things that go into a sports rivalry, this particular intangible is easily the most enticing, signaling an all out war, hence the aptly dubbed title for this occasion, "La Batalla".

The ring-wars between the two nations technically got under way back in October of 1978 when famed Puerto Rican Wilfred Gomez set out to defeat the once-thought-to-be unstoppable Carlos Zarate, who remains the only boxer in history to put together two streaks of 20 or more knockouts. The winner of 55 fights in a row with all but one coming by way of KO, never in a million years did anyone think - despite his greatness - that Wilfred Gomez would be able to pull off the victory. This would be Zarate's first fight in a new weight class four pounds north of his comfort zone, and shortly after the bell rang, standing in the ring under a blazing tropical sun in Puerto Rico's Roberto Clemente Coliseum, he quickly realized that there's no place like home as he suffered his first lost in his pro career in a devastating fashion on foreign sand in the island of Puerto Rico. Over the years, other great Mexican-Puerto Rican wars would later manifest. Among the best of the many would be Benitez-Palomino, Pintor-Gomez, Gomez-Sanchez, and subsequently the Chavez-Camacho shallackin'. Of all the great fights we've seen over the years in this lineage, the one synonymous ingredient was a feverish passion to pay the ultimate homage to ones homeland. And despite that passion to be the last man standing, the paths taken to reach that pinnacle have often been reached in different ways. In what some may view as a relative stereotype, typically, Puerto Rican fighters give you a certain level of overall talent, infused with pride. You see the speed, the pure boxing skills, and often, better than average power. In Mexican fighters we've historically seen the sheer ability to gut it out and win at all cost. Never known to bare the quickest hands in the group, their unrelenting prowess to take a beating while delivering a better one has always been their trademark. Often dispatching an effort that falls short of nothing but literal death in the ring.

For anyone who's ever been in attendance at such an event, they can attest firsthand that nowhere in the world of sports except maybe soccer does any rivalry reach this level of intensity. As we bring this rivalry full circle, nowhere in the sport of boxing has anyone seen two men more fitting for this mantle than the ones about to renew it come Saturday, July 26th, at the MGM Grand, in Las Vegas. Trinidad-Vargas, Margarito-Cintron, and a number of others were all great spectacles, but this is arguably the only one - to include the famed De La Hoya-Trinidad showdown - where you pair two men who refuse to fight going backwards and will literally enter the ring with that rather merciless 'stalk-til-they-can't-walk' agenda.

It's a bit early to get into predictions and analysis but regardless of anyones position, the one thing we can all agree upon is the common knowledge that this rivalry could be on the brink of the very best fight it has ever seen. One man describes this showdown as a way to place his name in the book of all-time greats produced from his land, the other views this fight as his professional "consecration". One guy is gracious in victory, the other is rather brash, as witnessed in his infamous arm-raising "get your a** up now!!!" gesture carried out after knocking his last victim to the deck. One man finds his stock on the rise yet again as he has continues to impress, the other understands that this opportunity has evaded him once before, and considering that this isn't baseball, that proverbial 'third-strike' isn't guaranteed to cross his plate before his 'game' is signaled to be over. All of a sudden, center stage is two men who know that their personal legacy could very well be defined by how well they uphold the past legacy their past countrymen initiated in this spectacle. With 5 days remaining until they officially lace up, the anticipation rises, and if you know like I know, come fight night, so will the efforts of these two if that was humanly possible.

Day 6 is now officially down....5 more to go.

(Check out tomorrows second installment of the '7-Gun Salute' to Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto: "Cotto/Margarito: Greatest Triumphs In The Face Of Adversity", which will chronicle a few of the toughest ring moments the two men encountered, and how they overcame those moments to ultimately place them where they now stand).

(Got Questions or Feedback? Write ESB's Vivek Wallace at or show some love at

Article posted on 21.07.2008

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