Monday, May 22, 2006

The Days of Rocky

When I came home early on Saturday night, I was searching for something interesting to watch. Normally, I'm drunk by 11 and hammered by 2, so I don't have to worry about such things; of course, having blown my proverbially load in the past two days, I was shot. I had drank too much and had worked too much in the past couple days, so in I was, browsing my 543,255 channels that DirectTV offers in an attempt to fins something other than MASH reruns or A&E specials on the Illuminati and the Bible Code.

I turned on HBO, and finally found something cool: WBC Super Featherweight Championships. These are the 130 pound fighters who beat the living hell out of each other and are as tough as coffin nails. The champion, a Mexican guy named Barrera, was taking on a guy who was going to fall off the map if he lost this fight; this was one of his only chances to prove himself. Being as he was not only the challenger, but also shorter, I had to root for Barrera's foe, a man named Rocky Juarez.

Juarez has had no easy life; this made me like him even more. If there's anything that I like in a fighter, it's when they grow up fighting in the streets. In the spirit of the Dempsey's and Graziano's of the world, Juarez was a street tough who just got noticed.

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"We used to box in the streets in my neighborhood. We'd have rivalries: street vs. street, neighborhood against neighborhood. I had an advantage because my grandfather, Pedro, taught me the basics of boxing when I was very young."

He's climbed from a kid in the streets fighting for pride to the man challenging the champion in WBC championships. This 5'5 Mexican- American has literally fought his way to the top, leaving sweat and blood in every ring he's been in. I didn't know this guy from a hole in the wall before last night; I'll remember him after watching this fight. After watching the brutality round after round, it seemed clear that Barrera was trying to stay out of the way of the younger Rocky's left hook, as it'd almost floored him a couple times. Being the veteran, Barrera held on, and was never knocked down; he knows better than to walk into a punch like that. When it came down to it, though, the judges called the fight a draw. Barrera held onto his championship belt, but Juarez earned more respect than I thought was possible for a guy to get from one fight...and with the balls he showed, I'll root for this guy from now on.

It's funny how sports do that. Even I'm not immune to being at least a little anti-Mexican once in a while, especially when I hear the stories from Texas of the illegals robbing shit off the homes of people who live near the border, or about how they want social security but never pay towards its. Still, 20 minutes into this fight, I was rooting for this guy Juarez like he was a guinea from Jersey. He showed heart, and that's a trait that all men from all countries can admire.

In a time where there is so much anti-Mexican sentiment, one fighter (who is a Mexican American) will still wear the colors of America and Mexico on the same trunks, and will still inspire pride in both countries. There were no questions if Rocky was the son of illegals, of people who swam the Rio Grande... no, he is just a great fighter, and he was born in America, so he is one of us. Sports can unite, they can make us look past origins and nationalities, and just enjoy the fact that these two athletes who are in peak physical condition can go through a war like that fight was, and still respect each other. Sometimes, like the Gatti/Ward fights, they can even make brothers of you (even though one was a Irishman from Boston and the other an Italian immigrant).

How quickly we all forget that we are a nation of immigrants, and that at one time, all of us were on the bottom of the social ladder. Don't give me the bullshit of, "Well, we all did it legally"- you didn't. WOP means, "With Out Papers". Hence, illegal. Irishman came over like locusts in the 1840s- my great, great, great grandfather was among them. If they were all legal, I'll slam my dick in a door.

Is it really better to just build a big fucking wall at the Mexican border? Will we look back at this time of "Anti-Mexicanism", and really be proud of what we're doing? Or will we look back in humiliation and disgust, as we do when we realize that Congress, at one time, put quotas on southern Europeans because they were Catholic? We're all people. We deserve a shot at life, and a good one at that. We are the sons of immigrants- do not forget that. Boxing won't let us.

Marciano, the son of Italian immigrants:
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Dempsey, the son of Jewish and Irish immigrants:
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Juarez, the son of Mexican immigrants:
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