We celebrate the Hispanic Heritage Month in October, so PanamericanWorld joins the festivities with an approach to the careers of great Latin American athletes that stand out in important professional leagues in the United States.
The impact of Latin American players in MLB is undeniable. The champions of the American League, the Cleveland Indians, wouldn’t have made it to the World Series —first time since 1997— without the decisive contribution of Dominican Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez and Puerto Rican Francisco Lindor and Roberto Perez; meanwhile, in the lineup of the National League champions, the Chicago Cubs, a leading role was played by the fastest pitcher in the history of MLB, Cuban Aroldis Chapman, and Puerto Rican Javier Baez.
The Latin American presence in U.S. leagues is undoubtedly more visible in baseball, but boxing, Major League Soccer (MLS), National Football League (NFL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) have also felt the influence of Latin American figures that have become icons due to their results.
Golden Punches by “Canelo” Alvarez
In terms of professional boxing, Mexican Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is perhaps the most successful and media-hyped figure in Latin America. At the age of 26, this Guanajuato-born fighter is ranked within the top ten of the world, pound by pound.
“Canelo” has been unstoppable over the past two years. The defeat suffered back in 2013 against Floyd Mayweather Jr. has fallen into oblivion. He has become a more complete boxer and his punch has grown more intimidating. In November 2015, there was no doubt about his superiority against Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto, at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, so he was given the world champion belt in medium weight, a version of the World Boxing Council.
Defending his title, he faced British Amir Khan at T-Mobile Arena, in Las Vegas. In the sixth round, Canelo’s right punch took the Olympic medalist down and he couldn’t stand up again. His next challenger was another British boxer, Liam Smith. The Mexican pugilist agreed to loss one pound, so he could fight in the 154 division (his weight was 155 pounds in the five previous fights). The much-anticipated duel took place at the AT&T Stadium of Arlington, Texas, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, in NFL.
Supported by most of viewers, Canelo gave Smith a crushing KO in the ninth round, so he conquered the world champion title in the super-welter division of the World Boxing Organization.
In 50 fights as a professional boxer, Canelo has achieved 48 wins (34 of which have finished with a KO), he has only lost one (against Mayweather) and the other one was a tie.
Baskets Scored by a Small Giant in NBA
When it comes to writing about the Latin American presence in the best basketball of the world, most of the headlines refer to Argentinean Manu Ginobili, who has won four champion rings as a member of the San Antonio Spurs; however, the NBA list of influential players from our region also includes Puerto Rican Jose Juan Barea, a veteran 32-year-old athlete that is barely 6 feet tall, but he has also made to the top of the game, since he was the champion with the Dallas Mavericks in the 2010-2011 season.
Barea joined the NBA in 2006 and throughout these ten years in the league, seven with the Mavericks and three with the Minnesota Timberwolves, his average in 660 games is 8.5 points and 3.5 passes. In 2015 he signed another contract with the Mavericks, so he’ll be playing with this team through 2019, for 16 million dollars.
The Mavericks’ most valuable player, German Dirk Nowitzki, thinks Barea is a key piece to the team. “We know that he’s always there for us, he’s always in the game. He is a tough man. He does his best in every game “.
Mexican Kicks to the Ovoid
The NFL is the most followed professional league in the United States. Standing out in this intense competition is not a simple mission and not many Latin American players have been regulars in their teams. As for this season, all eyes are focused on Roberto Aguayo, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ kicker. This 22-year-old Mexican player was signed up for the second round of the draft, after having played a leading role with the Florida State University team, where he strengthened his position as a highly reliable player for extra points, with physical capacity to score field goals in medium distances.
Aguayo’s mark in the NCAA was important and he was labeled as the most effective kicker in the history of American college football. Things haven’t been well with the Buccaneers, because in five games of the ongoing season he has missed half of the field goals (4 out of 8), but the team’s executives and fans are certainly waiting for the rookie to do it better.
The Atlantic Cross by Giovani dos Santos
Two decades ago, there wasn’t much to say about “soccer” in the United States. The World Cup was carried out in 1994 and things began to change. Nowadays, the Major League Soccer (MLS), the main professional soccer tournament in that country, is attracting a growing number of fans to stadiums and the teams have signed up important figures.
Many of these stars go to the MLS when their career is going down (there numerous examples, including David Beckham, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard), but other players have been victorious in Europe, are still in great shape and accept a profitable contract in the United States.
The most popular MLS goal scorer in Mexico and the whole Latin America is Giovani dos Santos, who plays with the Los Angeles Galaxy club. Giovani spent nearly a decade in Europe. He made his debut in 2007 with the Barcelona team and he later joined the Tottenham, Ipswich Town (4 goals), Galatasaray, Santander Racing (5 goals), Mallorca (6 goals) and Villareal (12 goals).
In July 2015, the Galaxy announced the signing up of dos Santos, for seven million dollars. In his first season in Los Angeles, the Mexican player scored three goals and delivered five passes. In his second campaign there, the results have been better, since dos Santos was included in the All-Star Game and, in 25 games, he totaled 14 goals and 12 passes.
In a Q&A with ESPN, the soccer player said that he feels great at the Californian city. “My Mexican people, the latinos, have shown me their open arms, so my integration to the life of this city has been even easier”, he admitted.