Latino athletes are increasingly impacting professional sports in the United States. If decades ago they only stood out in baseball, today they triumph in various specialties and have become references, not only for the Latino community in that country.
Who are the 10 most successful Latino athletes in the United States today? It is not easy to draw up this list because the performances of Latino players in Major League Baseball alone would lead to a Top 20, but we decided to include athletes who shine in other very popular sports in Latin America, such as football, basketball and boxing. Surely some important names were left out, but we love a debate, and we welcome your input.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Baseball, Dominican Republic)
This formidable baseball player was born in Montreal, where his father, Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, played and became one of the best Dominican athletes in history.
After only three seasons and just shy of 23, Guerrero Jr. is considered one of the most well-rounded hitters in major league baseball. With the Toronto Blue Jays he has shown all his power, and it is no exaggeration to say that he is one of the best known Latino athletes in the United States and Canada.
Guerrero Jr. led the majors in 2021 in home runs with 48, in runs scored with 123, and total bases reached with 363. Only Japanese marvel Shohei Otani was able to prevent the Dominican from receiving the American League Most Valuable Player award.
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (Boxing, Mexico)
There probably isn’t a more successful and controversial Latino boxer than “Canelo” Alvarez, and at PanamericanWorld we have placed him among the ten best Mexican pugilists of all time. That decision has sparked quite a few comments from our readers who have asked us not to put him in the Top 10, but the numbers speak for themselves.
In 2021, Canelo made history after defeating Caleb Plant, thus bringing together for the first time the world title of the super middleweights of the four most powerful organizations (WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF).
The Mexican is 31 years old and many specialized publications consider him the best pugilist, pound for pound, in the world. His record is impressive: he has fought in 60 fights, with 57 wins, two draws, and only one loss against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2013. Who will he challenge next? At least we already know that he does not want a boxing circus against youtuber Jake Paul. Fortunately.
Article related: Top 10 Latin American Boxing Legends
Carlos Vela (Soccer, Mexico)
Major League Soccer has had a remarkable growth and this has been, in large part, thanks to the contribution of excellent Latino athletes.
Currently, the main star in this discipline is Carlos Vela. The Mexican footballer has played four seasons with Los Angeles FC, where he has set several records.
His best season was 2019, when he broke the record for most goals scored, with 34, a mark that belonged to another Latino, Venezuelan Josef Martínez. He was also elected the MLS Most Valuable Player.
Injuries prevented him from playing for much of 2021 and his future with the club is uncertain, but Vela is already part of MLS history.
Juan Soto (Baseball, Dominican Republic)
Soto already has an impressive track record and is barely over 23 years of age. The Dominican was the 2019 World Series champion, won the batting title in 2020 and earned two Silver Bats. His next achievement? He will be the National League’s Most Valuable Player, sooner rather than later.
The Dominican combines his enormous strength, with a great touch and a batting system that allows him to direct the ball to all angles of the field, making it very difficult to prepare special defensive formations. The Washington Nationals made him the face of the franchise, and for the Latino community, Soto is an example of perseverance, based on hard work and talent.
Al Horford (Basketball, Dominican Republic)
After the retirement of Manu Ginóbili, the Dominican Al Horford has become the best Latino basketball player in the NBA.
Horford is playing his fifteenth season in the NBA. His most successful moments were with the Atlanta Hawks. He went through several teams (Celtics, Thunder and Sixers), until he returned to Boston, where he continues to be a center with great mastery of the game.
His statistics shows an average of 13.9 and 8.2 rebounds in the more than 900 games in which he has played in the NBA.
Amanda Nunes (Brazil, UFC)
Mixed martial arts have garnered a global audience and Latino athletes have been key in this growth. One of the great stars of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is Brazil’s Amanda Nunes, the first woman to achieve two world titles with that organization, in different divisions (feather and bantamweight).
In December 2021, Nunes surprisingly lost her world bantamweight title to Venezuela’s Julianna Peña. Despite the setback, the “Lioness,” as she is nicknamed, is still considered one of the top three wrestlers, pound for pound, in the UFC.
Abraham Ancer (Mexico, Golf)
Among Latino golfers perhaps the best known in the United States, today, is Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, who was born in Texas, but grew up in Reynosa, where he learned to play golf.
A key moment in his eight-year career as a professional was his victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, in 2021, in what was his first title on the PGA Tour.
Ancer represented Mexico at the Tokyo Olympics, where he finished in fourteenth position.
Fernando Tatis Jr. (Baseball, Dominican Republic)
Latino athletes have brought not only their talent to the Major Leagues, but also the passionate way in which the sport is experienced in Latin America. Among the most casual and brightest players on a field is Dominican Fernando Tatis Jr., a superstar who is just 23 years old.
Since his arrival at the San Diego Padres, Tatis Jr. has had a direct impact. In his three years in the majors, he has already won two Silver Bats, as the most offensive shortstop in the National League. In 2021 he was the hitter with the most home runs in the so-called “Old Circuit”, with 42. In addition to being talented, Tatis Jr.’s financial future is guaranteed: the Padres offered him the third-largest contract in baseball history, valued at $330 million, for 14 years.
Daniel Suarez (Mexico, NASCAR)
The NASCAR series is a favorite race in the United States and the presence of Mexican pilot Daniel Suárez cannot be overlooked. In 2015 he won the Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year award. A year later he won the championship of that series.
Suarez is from Monterrey. He is 29 years old and is currently in his fifth season with the NASCAR Cup, where he is part of the Trackhouse Racing team, which is co-owned by Cuban-born star musician Pitbull.
Karl-Anthony Towns (Basketball, Dominican Republic)
In 2015, the Dominican-American became the first Latino basketball player to be selected first in the NBA draft. In his first season he was chosen as Best Rookie of the Year.
Five years later, Towns consolidated himself as one of the most dominant centers and one of the best-known Latino athletes. His regular-season numbers, always with the Minnesota Timberwolves, are good: 23 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.
In 2020, Towns lost his mother (born in the Dominican Republic) and six other members of his family to Covid-19, so it hasn’t been easy to recover emotionally from so many losses.
“It’s going to be hard to do this again without her. And it will be hard for me to say that this is therapy. I don’t think playing basketball will ever be like therapy for me again. But it gives me the opportunity to relive the good memories I had with an adorable being like my mother”, Towns said.