“It feels sometimes people don’t even see us as human,” Montes said. “But now we have a champion and it tells us we can do anything.”
Ceasar Avelar, a dairy factory worker who lives in Pomona, and whose mother is Honduran and father is from El Salvador, immediately texted relatives as soon as López won. “The dude looks like my brother,” the 37-year-old Avelar said. “This is a jolt. It’s kind of like looking in the mirror, and for the first time, seeing ourselves for real.”
Avelar, an aspiring poet who is working with writer Matt Sedillo, said López inspired him to keep reaching for his dream. “This is a new beginning, man,” he said.
Rudy Mondragón, a UCLA Chicana and Chicano Studies doctoral candidate who is studying boxing, said the sport has long served as a gateway for immigrants and marginalized communities in the U.S.
Joe Louis served as an inspiration for African Americans during the 1930s and 1940s. Mexican American fighters Raul Rojas, Oscar De La Hoya, and more recently, Andy Ruiz, sparked similar enthusiasm for Mexican Americans during their time, Mondragón said.
“Like Johnny Tapia (the former bantamweight champion from Albuquerque, New Mexico), Teófimo López is a disrupter,” Mondragón said. “Except he’s breaking all the stereotypes about what Central American athletes, especially those from Honduras, can do. He’s changing the status quo.”
Even the López social media hashtag, #TheTakeover, is a source of Central American pride in the U.S. since it sends a message that there is a new population coming to fight for what they want, Mondragón said.
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