I’m supposed to write about last night’s presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump through the eyes of a U.S. voter of Hispanic heritage.
But all I can think about are the lessons boxing has taught us, and how I hope history repeats itself. I was like any Clinton supporter last night. I was hoping for a knockout, but this isn’t your traditional fight.
Trump isn’t your traditional political opponent. He’s a street fighter in a boxing ring, and depending on the opposing boxer, that can be very dangerous.
For as many anti-Latino sentiments Trump has expressed, he reminds me of one. His name is Ricardo Mayorga, a Nicaraguan professional boxer, who won world titles in welterweight and light middleweight divisions. In 2003, he was featured on The Ring magazine’s issue with the bold headline, "The craziest man in the sport: Mayorga lights up boxing."
Let me tell you why he earned that status and how it relates to Trump’s story. Mayorga had an infamous reputation for trash talking his opponents out of their game, because he often degraded their wives. He also drank and smoked heavily outside of the ring.
Inside the ring, Mayorga was as unorthodox as they come. He kept his hands down and invited his opponents to hit him. He was the opposite of technical and the definition of unpredictable. He threw wild haymakers that sent a slew of opponents to their backs.
Trump is the craziest man in politics lighting up the presidential race, but if we learned anything about Mayorga’s Cinderella story, the clock may soon strike midnight for him.
Mayorga’s success was categorized as a series of flukes, until he fought the respectable, late Vernon Forrest and beat him twice in a row, once by stunning knockout and the other by majority decision.
But Mayorga unraveled as he ascended the ranks and fought the sport’s greats.
Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Sugar Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto all took notice of Mayorga and learned the best way to beat him was to weather the hurricane of wild punches, keep their composure during his moments of showmanship and counter his undisciplined swings with blows to the jaw.
And that’s what happened. Mayorga went 6-6 in his final 12 fights and was knocked out in stunning fashion in many of them. His wins were primarily over boxers past their prime.
Hillary Clinton has not passed her prime. While the debate last night was far from a landslide victory for the former secretary of state, we saw the beginnings of Trump’s unraveling. We saw Hillary keep her composure during moments of showmanship, and counter his rhetoric with technical and predictable political responses.
It may not have been the first-round knockout that many Democrats or I hoped for, but it’ ll prove effective in the next two debates, as long as she isn’t trash talked out of her game.
So where do Hispanics watching the debate last night fit in this story? A couple of months before the election “Clinton leads Trump by a wide margin among likely Hispanic voters in four battle ground states where the Latino vote may prove to be decisive,” according to an exclusive bipartisan survey conducted for Univision Noticias.
Judging from the debate — aside from mention of a Venezuelan beauty queen becoming a U.S. citizen and avenging Trump’s offensive remarks against her with a vote — Hispanics were a forced insert in the racial dialogue of the evening. And I get why. The news cycle of our time is only reinforcing a black and white racial discussion, where brown is an afterthought.
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And it forces me to wonder how a persisting absence of a Hispanic narrative in the debates will effect the voting motivations of my community. Polling doesn’t equal voting. If we are perceived as a shoe-in vote, does that dilute the urgency of showing up at the booths on Election Day?
Democrats may not be able to persuade Latinos supporting Trump to vote the opposite, but how about the many undecided, who like the New York Times so eloquently put, “are reluctant to vote for a Democrat, or for another Clinton, or for a candidate who might appear, on the surface, not to offer change from an establishment that seems indifferent and a political system that seems broken.”
My point is that Democrats should not let their guard down in the next two rounds of this fight.
They don’t want to get hit with a wild, unexpected right hook to the head that sends the party through the ropes. If Vernon Forrest were here, he’d tell you the same.