The Historical Roots of “The Rivalry”

by E “G” Morales-Febus - Before most of us were even born, let alone fight fans, the world renowned and highly respected Puerto Rico vs Mexico rivalry began in the 1930s, when Mexican hero Baby Casanova and Islander Sixto Escobar were matched for the vacant version of the World bantamweight title.

Months before, an elimination fight between had been attempted to be made but Casanova's manager insisted that the fight take place in Mexico and refused to travel to Puerto Rico or New York where Escobar had developed a fan base.. For similar reasons Escobar's manager declined the offer to go to Mexico also believing that they wouldn't be given a fair shake of the dice. He would however agree to the fight if it were moved to California but wanted to be compen$ated accordingly. Due to an increasing sense of nationalistic pride the "bad blood" began to flow to the eventual point of 'a rivalry' and with animosity building, it was sometimes actually quite entertaining, other times it was not.

One has to consider that Mexico had no other ranked contenders and Puerto Rico had only Escobar and Pedero Montanez at the time. Remember at this point in time there were only EIGHT divisions, one champion per division, imagine that now! To make a long story short, the fight eventually took place in Montreal, Canada where Escobar scored a 9th round knockout. Months later Escobar did in fact travel to Mexico to face future lightweight champ Juan Zurita and lost a close decision, adding "fuel to the fire".

It wasn't until 1960 that a major fight between the two future Boxing powers took place when newly crowned 140lb champ Carlos Ortiz travelled west to defend against Mexico's undefeated knockout artist Raymundo "Battling" Torres. The pro-Torres flag waving fans confidently cheered wildly for their hero and created a festive atmosphere. Ortiz stopped the game but overmatched Torres after 10 one sided rounds. The brave Torres humbly cried after it was all over; not for himself but he did so believing that he had let his people down. A true fighter indeed. Props to him and those alike.

Six years passed before both nations would clash again in another big fight and once again Ortiz was a partaker. Now as the world 135lb king, he would be the center of controversy when accepting the challenge to once again travel and face nationalized Mexican hero Ultimino "Sugar" Ramos. Ramos put Ortiz down in the 2nd round but Ortiz rebounded to cut Ramos and so followed plenty of action filled 'give and take' rounds. Ramos' vision had become increasingly impaired and he was beginning to get hit more and ref Billy Conn stopped the fight due the the nasty cut but amazingly the Mexican Commission over ruled Conn and ORDERED THE REF to let the fight continue. The fight resumed but Conn later stopped it anyway and feeling threatened left in a hurry as a riot broke out.

The relatively new Mexican based WBC STRIPPED Ortiz of his title. Shortly after, the Mexican boxing commission later withdrew it's recognition of Ortiz as champion as well. These actions were highly publicized and deemed 'outrageous' by the rest of the boxing world, adding more "fuel" to The Rivalry.

Due to the controversy, the rematch received much attention and also caught the interest of the true hard core boxing fans outside that of Mexico and Puerto Rico. The fight was held in Puerto Rico on the 1st of July 1967. This time Ortiz left little doubt as he stopped Ramos in four rounds. The “rivalry” was only beginning and would get BIGGER and more interesting.

To get a PROPER view of these fights one MUST try to understand that these were BIG FIGHTS of that era. There wasn't the media advantages we have today with all the created hype. These actually meant MORE because championships and champions were SCARCE!! Only TEN title belts going around for the WHOLE BOXING WORLD! Title fights were a serious matter back then, very serious. Non-title International fights between top ranking contenders of two different nations were as important then as many of today's major title fights are now.

All RIVALRIES have their individual 'roots' and these fights I mentioned pretty much are the ROOTS of this HISTORIC RIVALRY. These were the latter Gomez vs Zarate, Sanchez/Gomez, the forgotten Benitez/Palomino, Gomez/Pintor battles and the Trinidad/Campas, Chavez/Rosario, Trinidad/Oscar, Margarito/Cotto, Trinidad/Vargas... of the more recent era.

I don't have to say that Mexico is a great boxing nation. EVERYBODY knows that. You just don't CONTINUALLY pump out champions and quality fighters Mexico has like it was some coincidence. Only foolishness would say so. Mexico also has many legendary trainers. Do I need to emphasize on little Puerto Rico's large stature and contribution to the sport we love? To deny the fact that they are indeed the World's Numero Uno Champion producers per capita is like denying that wild bears s*** in the woods, that the Pope is Catholic, London has no fog, God didn't make little green apples and that it doesn’t snow in Indianapolis in the winter time.

Rivalry?? Well, in all honesty.. Mexico has MORE numbers. They have MORE to pick from. MORE chances at titles. MORE fighters getting ranked. In 2007 there were over 300 fight cards in Mexico. Puerto Rico?? I believe there were 17 or so. They, Mexico hold the 'obvious' advantages. How can anyone fairly disagree? Puerto Rico?? Well.. if we were to fairly round off things... the balance might tend to... but it all depends on how one weighs it all out, ethnically neutral or not, or "on what side off the fence' one lives on. For some it's a 'pride' thing for others it's a 'nationality' issue. And for others..... it's PERSONAL!! And there you have it.. A RIVALRY!!

Article posted on 28.10.2008

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