This Saturday's pay-per-view clash between Saul Alvarez and Erislandy Lara has developed into a matter of national rivalry, as the popular Mexican redhead and the former Cuban amateur star have both proudly repped the rich boxing cultures they come out of.
For decades after the Castro Revolution of 1960, Cuban fighters competed almost entirely as amateurs. Turning professional required fleeing the island nation and going into permanent exile. Prior to this century, it had been decades since there were any significant Cuban stars in the professional ranks.
As amateur boxers, the Cubans have indeed been elite. The greatness of the Mexican tradition, on the other hand, has been achieved almost entirely in the professional ranks.
Lara and Alvarez are symbolic of the contrasting philosophies. Lara honed his craft as an amateur until age 25. Canelo was a pro at 15.
From the 1950s through the mid-1970s, many great fights were fought between Cuban and Mexican competitors, particularly in the welterweight division. Due to the complications of life under Castro, the rivalry pretty much fell dead until Joel Casamayor's emergence last decade.
With talented Cuban stars now flooding the professional ranks once again, fans can only hope that the Alvarez vs. Lara pay-per-view this weekend is a sign of great things ahead in the coming years.