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Mauricio Lara: Boxing, media, and the deskilling of Mexicans

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This last weekend previously undefeated former IBF Junior Featherweight Champion of the World Josh Warrington fought Mauricio Lara. Josh Warrington is a well-established, well-promoted world champion level fighter from the U.K. stripped of his title due to inactivity rather than a loss in the ring. Warrington has victories over other world-class champions, most notably over Carl Frampton of Ireland, famous for his 1-1 record with Leo Santa Cruz of Mexico. Mauricio Lara was a virtually unknown fighter from Mexico brought in as an easy touch for Warrington to get some rounds. In boxing, this is known as a tune-up fight. Wherein world-class fighters take on working professionals to sharpen their skills. Headed into the bout Warrington was an 18 to 1 favorite to win and a 5 to 1 betting favorite to finish Lara within the first 6.

During the broadcast, the British commentators repeatedly referred to Lara as “the Mexican.” As the fight progressed and became surprisingly competitive, the commentators attributed Warrington’s success to his skillset. In contrast, Lara’s success was explained as a fluke owing to Warrington’s lack of preparation for the “unheralded Mexican.” One commentator, Chris Lloyd, said Warrington “put a dent in the Mexican” and once “got his act together” Warrington was “more than capable of beating this Mexican.”

"[Warrington is] more than capable of beating this Mexican..."

Chris Lloyd

Another commentator, Tony Bellew, a former boxer himself, warned that Lara was throwing punches from “Mexican angles,” later, he drew comparisons between Lara and Canelo, who fight nothing alike, saying Mexicans “throw everything into their punches.”

In the 9th round, Mauricio Lara did the unthinkable, scoring a major upset by knocking out the highly touted, heavily favored undefeated Josh Warrington. Following their initial shock, the British commentators immediately stated that Lara would fall into obscurity because who would want to run the risk of losing to as “unheralded Mexican.” Instead of celebrating Lara’s victory and thereby heralding him, the commentators instead confirmed the immutable position of Mauricio Lara as an unheralded Mexican. And in the sport of boxing, as in life, everyone knows that an unheralded Mexican —is an unheralded Mexican.

If a widely unknown British fighter were to defeat a celebrated Mexican World Champion against 18 to 1 odds, the heralding would begin immediately. A movie deal would be in the works by the end of the night. In the U.S., Mickey Ward has a movie starring Mark Wahlberg. Mickey Ward also has a loss to Antonio Diaz, a Chicano fighter with a “Mexican style” who has long been forgotten even by most boxing fans. Like Ward, Diaz was what is known as a pressure fighter.

Courtesy DAZN Boxing YouTube Channel click for highlights of Lara's victory!

In terms of boxing skill, Josh Warrington is levels above either Antonio Diaz or Mickey Ward. He is also known as a pressure fighter. Pressure fighters specialize in cutting off the ring and then overwhelming opponents with volume punching at close quarters. Pressure fighting is a style of fighting that, for better or worse, is closely associated with Mexican boxing.

“Mexican boxing” “Mexican style” “typical Mexican” “like a Mexican” “Mexican brawler” “Mexican banger” all mean the same thing pouring out of the mouths of boxing commentators:

Tough but unskilled.

Non-Mexican pressure fighters are not talked about in the same manner. The notion of sturdy but unskilled boxers is tied to broader notions in the world of unskilled labor, which in much of the U.S. psyche —is branded to Mexican identity. These U.S. notions about Mexicans cross the pond to the U.K.

On the other hand, reality teaches us that Mexico is the world’s second-leading nation, only after the U.S., for producing world champions in the long-storied history of the sport. Legacies and traditions such as these are not built without skill.

There is a tremendous amount of skill required in cutting off the ring. It requires an incredible amount of ring intelligence to fight in close quarters. In close quarters you cannot see the punches as they are coming. It takes a fantastic amount of quick and calculated logic to outland your opponent under those conditions. To think quickly and act decisively is most assuredly skilled labor. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise, and if there is such a thing as “Mexican style” that is it: the ability to think, to fight, and to win against impossible odds.

¡Viva Mauricio Lara!
¡Viva Mexico Cabrones!

by Matt Sedillo


Matt Sedillo has been hailed as “the best political poet in America” by journalist Greg Palast and the “poet laureate of struggle” by historian Paul Ortiz. He is the author of “Mowing Leaves of Grass” and the literary director of the dA Center for the Arts in Pomona CA. Visit his website: http://www.mattsedillo.com 

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