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The rise and fall of 5 who made Mérida the capital of boxing

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From “Last Heroes of the Peninsula.”

To the rhythm of uppercuts and jabs, the former world champions Gustavo “Guty” Espadas, Miguel Canto, Freddie “Chato” Castillo, Lupe Madera and Juan Herrera made Mérida the capital of boxing.

With their sporting exploits of the 1970s and 1980s, five men born in the same place around the same time put the state of Yucatán on the international boxing map. Sportswriters called them “the last Mayan warriors.”

“Yucatán was synonymous with badass boxers,” says Herrera.

All of them born into poor families, they made even the greatest look helpless in the ring and covered themselves in glory. Small in stature, they were invincible between the ropes, but hard living and the passage of time robbed them of their titles. Their stories confirm the inexorable rule of the boxer’s career: rising from a life of poverty through a drive to succeed, they made it to the top before touching bottom.

They squandered a part of their winnings and were stripped of the rest by promoters, friends and strangers. Fighters to the end of their days, they went down and then picked themselves up to keep on struggling. Without their sculpted bodies now, they no longer aspire to be kings of a weight class: happiness is their brightest crown and the love of their families their inspiration.

“The Last Heroes of the Peninsula” (2008) is a documentary directed by José Manuel Cravioto. “…Punctuated with grainy yet thrilling VCR footage of the fights that propelled them to fame,” according to the Edinburgh Film Festival, at 7 p.m. tonight it is screening at the Olimpo for anyone more interested in this angle on the region’s contemporary history.

The EFF’s summary continues: “…pugilist Miguel Canto, a star in his country, hasn’t even had his image placed on the World Council Boxing Hall of Fame. Even though the film shows these men troubled, they are not down, their love for the sport reminding us: once a legend, always a legend.”

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