Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Arena 72

By Roger Esty


The Arena 72 was just north of Aguas Caliente Boulevard near the race track. It was built in 1972 so it got its name. The bigger fights were held at the Municipal Auditorium or the downtown bullring. One thing all three venues had in common:the opponent was going to fight in their house. The out of towner,or the foreigner. You were in TJ now. You had to be ready or else.

I loved the atmosphere at the Olympic ,San Diego's Coliseum,the ball parks. If it was Mexican fighters, the fans in the stands were at one with the fighters. But in Mexico ,you were in their house. Don't pull any of this "in the U.S. we do it this way."

Whether it was the fights or ,for example a Vicente Fernandez concert,once you left the arena here in the 
states it was back to "Gringolandia". In Mexico you were saturated "puro Mexicano." The feel never left you once you left the arena. The smell of the Mexican diesel,the manteca crackling, the smoke from the fires that burned the trash in the colonias. The taco carts with their vats of horchata and jamaica.The packs dogs running through the crowd's feet. The dirt lots. The aficianados were in their element. Come and enjoy what it's like at the fights,but we don't want your suggestions. We do it the same way. Put on the gloves in the ring. The photographers flashing the bulbs of their cameras at the fighters and the referee. The dead rattlesnake and the bloody woman's underpants being tossed around. The cops standing there doing nothing. Don't correct us. Asi es.

I'm not going to talk about a particular fight. Whether it was in the tiny Arena 72 or outdoors in the bullring.The chifles inundating the air. There would be firecrackers going off. I can smell the smoke from those cuetes now. 

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