The Last Heroes Of The Peninsula

The Last Heroes Of The Peninsula


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Old boxers are a sad bunch. Chances are they’ve spent their prize money, or been diddled out of it by unscrupulous financiers. When once they were neat and lean, fast on their feet and fodder for ringside groupies, now they are short, fat and unrecognised. The memories fade and those glory days move relentlessly towards dusk.

The interesting fact upon which Jose Manuel Cravioto’s documentary is based cannot be denied. From the city of Merida in the Mexican state of Yucatan five world champions emerged in the years before celebrity had global influence. Being small and light, they dominated the lower, less glamorous weights and coming from the streets they had much to prove.

The film has the flavour of a home movie, as Juan Harrera drives around in his battered banger to meet the other three survivors – one died after a drunken fall down a flight of steps – with a handheld camera somewhere over his shoulder. There is much banter and man hugs amongst the ex-bruisers, but little insight into their lives, or even their memorable victories. Miguel Canto, once described as “the best flyweight of all time”, may have lost his money after ill-advised investments hit the canvas, but has retained his dignity and a certain pride; they even named an avenue after him in the centre of town.

Other than snapshots in grainy, straight-from-TV outtakes, almost exclusively from Japan, there are not enough scenes from the ring. A former trainer and sports commentator speak eloquently about the boxers’ qualities, as well as the importance of discipline and the work ethic, but nothing about what it feels like to fight abroad, have money and fame, from a dirt poor background.

Merida looks grim, it’s true and The Last Heroes, if indeed they are the last, have not deserted their home town for New Mexico or Florida. The young hopefuls of today, sweating and silent in backstreet gyms, appear unimpressed by a visit from the surviving four. Boxing, it seems, has lost its mojo, growing old in the shadow of greatness.

Reviewed on: 18 Jun 2009
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A documentary looking at the stars of the Mexican boxing world.
Amazon link

Director: José Manuel Cravioto

Year: 2008

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: Mexico


EIFF 2009

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