On Saturday November 21st, the latest chapter in of one of boxing’s biggest cultural rivalries will descend upon Las Vegas. Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto and Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez will face each other for the first time ever on this night, but in the grand scheme of things it will add to boxing’s long standing rivalry between their native homelands. Puerto Rico and Mexico have produced some of the best fighters in the history of the sport. They’ve also created some of boxing’s greatest feuds.
The 1981 slugfest between Puerto Rico’s Wilfredo Gomez and Mexico’s Salvador Sanchez is one of the most memorable encounters between these two countries and is credited with bringing this rivalry to the mainstream. Gomez was undefeated until Sanchez stopped him dead in his tracks. In the end, Gomez was left a bloody mess inside the ring. Other rivalries between these two nations include Oscar De La Hoya vs Felix Trinidad, Hector Camacho vs Julio Cesar Chavez, Ivan Calderon against both Giovanni Segura and Hugo Fidel Cazares, and most recently, Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito.
Boxers from both nations have achieved some impressive milestones along the way. For example, Ivan Calderon’s impressive record against Mexican boxers (20-3, including 19 straight victories). Also, Julio Chavez has never lost against Puerto Rico’s finest (6-0), Antonio Margarito has also impressed against Boricua boxers (4-1), as well as Juan Manuel Marquez (3-0). Then there’s Felix Trinidad who’s never lost a title fight against boxers of Mexican descent (2-0). It’s stats like these that make boxing a source of national pride for both countries.
But, after 30 plus years why does the rivalry still burn so hot? For one, boxing collectively is just as popular to Puerto Ricans as baseball, and to Mexicans as soccer. Add to that each country’s approach to the sport. Mexican fighters have had success in this rivalry based on a warrior approach to the sport, willing to take two punches just to give one, often starting slow, yet always focused and willing to brawl from start to finish. There is also their approach to the craft, often done with a certain humility. While Puerto Rican fighters rely heavily on boxing fundamentals, speed and one-punch knockout power to get them to victory. One also can’t forget many a Puerto Rican boxer’s tendency to look for a psychological edge by engaging in trash talk from time to time. Yet, bragging rights are probably the biggest key in this rivalry. Latin American supremacy is essentially on the line as a fair majority of Latino boxers hail from these two countries.
Alvarez looks to continue Mexican dominance while Cotto looks to swing momentum back into Puerto Rico’s favor. Both men will walk into this fight boasting their own sets of accomplishments, which have made them the current top attractions for their respective countries. Cotto is currently the linear middleweight champion and the only Puerto Rican in his sport to ever win titles in four different weight classes. As a Super Welterweight, Alvarez held the Ring Magazine, WBC and WBA titles in succession before losing to Floyd Mayweather in 2013 and is heralded as the phenom fighter of his generation.
Whoever wins on the 21st one thing is for sure; boxing fans in both Latin America and the United States are in for another classic fight between these historic cultures. Pride, patriotism, glory and bragging rights will all be at stake.