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Do Mexican fighters live up to the stereotype?

Mexican fighters have a reputation for never going down. How true is this?

“Sí, se puede” is a chant you often hear when a Mexican boxer makes his way to the ring. You also hear the chant at mixed martial arts fights, soccer games, or other events with a predominantly Mexican audience. Former UFC flyweight champion Brandon Moreno, the first Mexican-born UFC Champion, said “sí, se pudo” after defeating Deiveson Figuerido in Phoenix, Arizona. One way or another, the idea of continuing through adversity seems to be central to how Mexican fighters perform. 

But it’s not just Mexican fighters that bring this up. One of the UFC’s rising stars Sean O’Malley went on a podcast called This Past Weekend with comedian Theo Von and was asked who he thought was the toughest ethnicity to battle.  “Some of them just don’t go down,” said O’Malley when he named Mexicans as the toughest people to knock out. And he’s not the only person that has this opinion. 

The common stereotype is that Mexican fighters are some of the toughest fighters in the world, due to their traditional style in which they keep coming forward and refuse to give up. But what makes Mexican fighters tough to put down? Is it a genetic advantage? Is it the way they grow up?

Poverty plays a factor for fighters

It may not just be “dodging” the chance. Work ethic, culture, and being told to toughen up by family may be factors. 

Much like in the rest of the world, boxing is not an upper-class sport in Mexico, and many kids turn to a boxing gym to stay out of trouble. But unlike in the United States where it has fallen in popularity and reputation, boxing remains a very accessible and noble sport in Mexico, and it has become a way out of poverty for many fighters. 

Julio César Chávez who is considered the G.O.A.T. of Mexican boxing by many boxing pundits, grew up in an abandoned railway cart with eight siblings and turned pro to buy his family a house. Saul “Canelo ” Alvarez sold ice cream starting from the age of five until he went pro. Typically, these boxers have large families with parents who work day and night, and require their children to work instead of attending school. In a country with few economic opportunities for working-class families, boxing represents a way out for many youngsters. 

Not just a Mexican phenomenon

This lifestyle is not unique to Mexicans. In the early 1900s, a lot of elite Irish and Jewish boxers turned to the ring instead of joining organized crime, often the only choice available to those who wanted to move up the social ladder. Manny Pacquaio, a living legend of the sport, has detailed how extreme poverty in the Philippines motivated him throughout his career. Poverty has always been linked to some of the greatest boxers, but in Mexico along with its rich tradition, values and culture have supported the stereotype of the Mexican warrior in the ring. 

Mexican culture relies a lot on tradition, and that could be credited for why Mexicans are such tough opponents. The common background is they come from humble families with traditional values, which are then transposed to the ring. 

For Mexicans, boxing is in their blood, their culture, their status, and their legacies. It is bigger than just a sport–for them it is a stepping stone to a different way of living.