Mi Corazon: The Heart of a Latin Champion

By Christian Giudice on July 15, 2014
Mi Corazon: The Heart of a Latin Champion
The fighters dissect the decisions that shaped their lives both inside and outside the ring.

Whatever gives a sports fan that euphoric feeling, it’s safe to say there is nothing quite like watching a Latin boxer fight…

“We get into boxing out of necessity, not because we like it.”—Julio Cesar Chavez

One can revel in the beauty of a perfect swing, an unforgettable goal, the smoothness of a jumper or the steel nerves of a Super Bowl quarterback during a last-minute comeback. Whatever gives a sports fan that euphoric feeling, it’s safe to say there is nothing quite like watching a Latin boxer fight. The style is a mixture of elegance, beauty, violence, persistence, but most of all it stems from places that most people will never ever comprehend, prompting Mexico’s former world champion Fernando Montiel to definitively say, “Boxers are forged by blows.”

Every boxer has a backstory, the exposition as to why he entered the sport. Showing an appreciation for every fighter who has stepped into the ring, Alan Swyer’s new documentary, El Boxeo, utilizes numerous voices of boxers, trainers, journalists, historians, and promoters, to not only tell their stories in each individual round, but also to pay homage to a sport that elevated some and destroyed others.

Early on, Swyer juxtaposes footage of Roberto Duran and Alexis Arguello with interviews and helps set the tone for the rest of the film. From Oscar De La Hoya to Ruben Olivares to Julio Cesar Chavez, Swyer taps into the minds of the finest Latin fighters of all time. Devoid of pretense, the fighters dissect the decisions that shaped their lives both inside and outside the ring. While Olivares educates the audience on the perfect hook to the liver inside the ring, Chavez perfectly sums up the reality of most Latin fighters outside of it when he states, “We became boxers out of necessity, not because we liked it.”

Despite the insight from the more notable fighters, it is the collective voice of everyone involved that reveals the true essence and establishes the emotional core of the sport throughout the film. Whether it is the sorrow of hearing Puerto Rican stylist Ivan Calderon lament about growing up in a foster home, or welterweight contender Victor Ortiz discussing the absence of his parents or former lightweight champ Rodolfo “El Gato” Gonzalez revealing, “It felt so bad to see my mother and father not being able to eat a meal,” each vignette provided depth to the film.

Yet, it was the lighter moments that injected life into the nearly two-hour documentary. Fueled by the energy of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, who excitedly talks about Latin fighters and their salsa dancing prowess, the director also brings the audience ringside with Argentina’s Sergio Martinez, who chronicles the Argentinean style and the gifts of Carlos Monzon. Even Sugar Ray Leonard gets into the act when he characterizes the style of the Cuban fighter as “muy bonito.” As with most conversations on the best Latin fighter of all time, the topic reverts back to Duran, when, in one of the film’s high points, Puerto Rico’s Paco Valcarcel tells an unforgettable story involving Roberto Duran and Fidel Castro.

What was a bit hard to accept was the argument that often surfaces in boxing debates that one fighter is perceived as “more Hispanic” than another boxer. If anything, this documentary refutes any testimony that suggests that the obscene measurement has any place in this sport, or any, for that matter. The issue of De La Hoya’s authenticity dominated the Crossover Appeal Round. De La Hoya openly discusses his willingness to identify as a US citizen with Mexican roots. Later, he adds, “I was the American Dream. Then when I fought the great Julio Cesar Chavez, the criticism started flying everywhere.” Conversely, it was difficult to negate what De La Hoya accomplished; talking about how fearless De La Hoya was as a fighter, matchmaker Bruce Trampler says, “He never ducked anybody.”

Even more intriguing than revisiting some of the footage and interviews with the Latin legends was the political discussion that defined Cuba Round Seven. Old footage of Che Guevara and Castro was intricately woven into this round, as interview subjects discussed the Cuban greats such as Teofilo Stevenson, Jose “Mantequilla” Napoles, Kid Chocolate, and Sugar Ramos as well as the impact of the Cold War on the sport and various elements of the Cuban amateur program. Debates raged on regarding Ali and Stevenson, and the success of the Cuban fighters who have defected over the years. In a later round, the discussion turned to the possibility of a Latin heavyweight champion.

No matter where a Latin fighter hails from, there is something uniquely different and beautiful about each one – the way he carries himself, the ring movements, the power, the courage, and the compassion that he shows for his opponents. We, as fight fans, are drawn to them.

In an article the late Jose Torres wrote for Ring Magazine on the emergence of the Hispanic fighter, he said, “First it was the Irish, then the Jewish, the Italian, the black, and, most recently, the Hispanic fighter who sought his way out of the ghetto and fought his way to fame and fortune with the only tools at his disposal, his hands.”

It was, and is, simple. Most of the men featured in the film didn’t love the sport, but they embraced it because they had to. But maybe the underlying point of the film that Swyer wanted to convey was that beneath it all, those Latin fighters made us love them and the sport. And after one hour and forty-seven minutes of going back to the glory days, that’s all that really matters.

Best Rounds: Crossover Appeal and Cuba

Best Interview Subject: Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini

Knockout Fight Footage: Mando Ramos vs. Sugar Ramos

Hits: “Obviously they had a great product to work with.”—Oscar De La Hoya referring to himself and how he was marketed.

Misses: “Oscar was never a great fighter. A great fighter is (Felix) Trinidad.”—Bob Arum

Christian Giudice
Author of Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran
Beloved Warrior: The Rise and Fall of Alexis Arguello

Christian Giudice
Author: The Rise and Fall of Alexis Argüello
Author: Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran

Website: christiangiudice.com; belovedwarrior.net
Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/#!/chrisgiudice
Beloved Warrior Page: http://www.facebook.com/BelovedWarriorTheRiseAndFallOfAlexisArguello

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

El Boxeo - Official Trailer - English

Mando Ramos vs Sugar Ramos (part 1)-great fight!!

Mando Ramos vs Sugar Ramos (part 2)-great fight!!

Mando Ramos vs Sugar Ramos (part 3)-great fight!!

Mando Ramos vs Sugar Ramos (part 4)-great fight!!

Discuss this in our forums

Related Articles


This is a place to express and/or debate your boxing views. It is not a place to offend anyone. If we feel comments are offensive, the post will be deleted and continuing offenders will be blocked from the site. Please keep it clean and civil! We want to have fun. We want some salty language and good-natured exchanges. But let's keep our punches above the belt...
  1. Eric 08:24am, 07/16/2014

    @Gajjers… Monzon could arguably be called the greatest middleweight ever. I would rank him behind Greb, Robinson, and Ketchel, but I’m sure some rank him as the best ever. However, if Pete Rose can be excluded from the baseball HOF for just gambling on baseball while he was a current manager, then I see no reason why the boxing and football HOFs, should include Monzon and OJ Simpson. Seems both Monzon and OJ had a fondness for beating on women, and Monzon was convicted of actually murdering one of his wives. OJ was never convicted, but everyone with an IQ above an earthworm knew he was guilty. I can overlook something like gambling while being an active manager.  I can even overlook a “domestic dispute” where the athlete might be guilty of slapping his wife or girlfriend, but I don’t have much tolerance for a man who has a history of abusing women.

  2. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:54am, 07/16/2014

    Did anyone notice in the videos above that Mando used lots of movement in his fight with Sugar Ramos but unlike Lara was always but always within punching range….I don’t know if some fighters are more Hispanic than others but I do know this….there Hispanic fighters and then there other Hispanic fighters.

  3. Gajjers 05:28am, 07/16/2014

    Come on Eric, a fighter is called great largely because of his feats inside the ring. When you want to delve into anyone’s personal life, man, there are gonna be some skeletons to be discovered - incidentally, these public figures don’t get to stash ‘em away in some closet like John Q Public can. Call it like you wanna, but great is GREAT. I luv ‘em, warts and all…
    Julio Cesar Chavez says they did it ‘cause they had to. Tell me, when did he stop trading shots. Do the same needs apply to his son? I thought the love of (victorious) combat was a well known human trait. Man, I fantasized about being Hagler during Hagler vs Hearns. What drove the Marvelous One that night? Money? That alone wouldn’t do it, Sir! Those guys have something special we fight fans admire. May the true warriors prosper!

  4. Eric 01:56pm, 07/15/2014

    Ruben Olivares, Roberto Duran, Bobby Chacon, Salvador Sanchez, and Victor Galindez, Carlos Zarate, Lupe Pintor, and Alexis Arguello certainly rank as some of my personal favorite fighters. Sanchez could’ve been one of the all time greats if his life wasn’t tragically cut so short. Sorry, but I no longer include Monzon,  great as he was in the ring can’t take away from what he did outside the ring. I loved Tony Ayala as a fighter when he was coming up in the early ‘80’s, but Tony, like Monzon,  wasn’t a person to be looked up to outside of boxing talent.

Leave a comment