For fans, the rivalry game is the essence of sports. Nothing stirs the emotions like a match-up where the ultimate prize is bragging rights, whether it’s between countries, cities or a couple of drinking buddies. Every time particular teams meet — even if it’s an otherwise meaningless mid-season encounter — the tension coils a bit tighter and the anticipation is ratcheted up a notch. The respective records become irrelevant; all that matters is securing victory over “those guys” that night. Win and all is well. Lose and go through hell — at least until the next time.
In baseball it’s Yankees-Red Sox and Giants-Dodgers. In the NBA it’s Lakers-Celtics. In college basketball it’s Duke-North Carolina while it’s Ohio State-Michigan in college football. In soccer it’s Barcelona vs. Real Madrid. In the NHL, it’s Penguins-Capitals, Bruins-Canadiens and Canadiens-Maple Leafs. In the NFL, it’s Packers-Bears, Steelers-Ravens and Cowboys-Redskins — as well as other pairings too numerous to mention here.
But no other sport is as overtly violent and vicariously satisfying as boxing, and in boxing the definitive rivalry is Mexico vs. Puerto Rico. It is a pairing steeped in extraordinary success, for the two nations have produced a combined 166 world titlists – 123 for Mexico and 43 for Puerto Rico – and scores of Hall of Famers. Yet it doesn’t matter whether the nations meet in a curtain-raising four-rounder or a high-profile pay-per-view main event, the nationalistic feelings between combatants and countrymen alike are – and always will be – deep and ever-present.
On Saturday, another chapter in this compelling saga will be written when Mexico’s Orlando Salido risks his WBO featherweight title against the man from whom he won it, Puerto Rico’s Juan Manuel Lopez. With pride and vengeance being the story line, the atmosphere at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente will be electric and, given the styles, the fight will epitomize it.
The Mexico vs. Puerto Rico blood feud also boasts a storied history that includes some of the sport’s most compelling theater. Ten such bouts will be profiled here in honor of Saturday’s match as well as the great moments this pairing has produced over the years.