Juan Manuel Marquez turns 42-years-old today and we’ve decided it’s time to say ‘Happy Birthday’ and pay homage to the man some call “The Aztec Warrior.” While he insists he has not made a final decision and is still considering all options, including the possibility of a farewell fight in Mexico, the fact is retirement beckons as a damaged knee continues to bother him and there really are no more mountains left to climb for this guaranteed Hall of Fame champion.
Boxing fans the world over owe Marquez a long and loud standing ovation for his activity level, accomplishments and willingness to take on risky fights. With the exception of his defeat to Floyd Mayweather, where he entered the ring at a significant size and weight disadvantage, all of his losses were highly competitive, most debatable if not controversial. He won titles in four different weight classes and his standing among his fellow Mexican greats is now lofty and secure.
Which in turn raises an intriguing question: Just what is it about Mexico and Mexican fighters which makes them so great and so essential to the sport we love? How is it that a relatively small country keeps producing, generation after generation, truly iconic fistic talent, warriors who provide fight fans with thrilling battles and performances year after year? What makes Mexican boxers so special? Or, to put the question another way, what would boxing be without Mexico? Is any nation more essential to the sport?
Consider the growing popularity of middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. In a post-fight interview on HBO he stated, with pride, that his style of fighting is “Mexican Style” and that he loves it. Instantly a new meme was born and t-shirts featuring Golovkin in a sombrero were suddenly everywhere. Now we hardly need a Khazak boxer to exemplify what the Mexican style of boxing is all about, but Golovkin’s use of the term points to a larger truth, namely, that there is a Mexican style of boxing, and the sport would be much poorer for its absence.
Perhaps its chief characteristic would be courage. A Mexican fighter shrinks from no challenge, indeed he eagerly seeks them out to prove himself. And once in the ring, he fights with courage, challenging his opponent, testing both him and himself, always ready and willing to exchange blows and demonstrate his mettle, because the extraordinary fact remains that there exist no Mexican fighters without resilient chins. You can knock them down, but they almost always get right back up.
No doubt this toughness derives itself in part from an innate determination which in turn points to why so many young Mexicans step into the squared circle in the first place: poverty. A Mexican fighter is invariably one who comes from a place of desperation and deprivation, from the barrio, and thus the fight to win boxing glory is also the fight to earn much-needed pesos for himself and his family.
But in addition to courage, determination and, needless to say, the Latin code of machismo, there is also the pride that comes from simply being a Mexican boxer. A sense of tradition, of carrying it on and paying homage to it, informs a Mexican boxer’s efforts. Boxing is an essential part of the nation’s culture and all of its people are keenly aware of the achievements of men such as Ruben Olivares, Carlos Zarate, Miguel Canto, Kid Azteca and a host of other Mexican champions. Perhaps in no other country has boxing, for so long, constituted a living tradition, with former boxers and aging trainers passing on knowledge in grimy gyms from Guadalajara to Zapopan, Chihuahua to Culiacan, Juarez to Mexico City.
Fittingly enough, “Dinamita” celebrates his birthday just a few days before the start of what is known throughout Mexico as “El Mes Patrio,” the month of the motherland. The Mexican people celebrate their Independence Day on the 16th, and this is the reason that holiday has become a bastion of the boxing calendar, with thousands of Mexicanos and Mexicanas flocking to Las Vegas to see the big fight year after year, cheering on their heroes with a bottle of tequila in one hand and a bandera in the other.
With all this in mind, and with the heavily accented words of Gennady Golovkin in our ears (“My style is Mexican style! I love it! I love fight!”), and with today being “Dinamita’s” birthday, we hereby declare this week “Mexican Style” week on The Fight City, seven days of posts celebrating the legacy of Mexican fighters and the unmatched contribution of the nation of Mexico to the sport we love. Check back frequently, because once this fiesta gets going, the posts are going to be, like the churning fists of Lupe Pintor or Baby Arizmendi, fast and furious.
Viva Mexico! Viva Mexican Boxing! Feliz cumpleaños to Juan Manuel Marquez! And welcome to Mexican Style Week!