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Standing Eight

Standing Eight: The Inspiring Story of Jesus "El Matador" Chavez, Who Became Lightweight Champion of the World

The folks at Da Capo Press, publisher of Standing Eight, should have had enough confidence in this book to refrain from including the adjective "inspiring" in the subtitle. Come on, guys. Let the reader decide.

In fact, Standing Eight does inspire at least admiration for the perseverance evident in the struggles of Jesus "El Matador" Chavez, previously known as Gabriel Sandoval.

As Sandoval, a Mexican living in Chicago without papers, the seventeen-year-old high school student, amateur boxer, and gang member gets arrested for armed robbery. After serving several years in Illinois prisons, he's released and deported to Mexico, where he's considered a foreigner by those inclined to be charitable and a traitor by those not so inclined. Sandoval slips back into the U.S. with the help of his father, who has a green card, moves to San Antonio, and eventually changes his name to Jesus Chavez. The promising pro boxing career he begins in Texas is derailed when he's caught trying to get a driver's license with a fake social security card, and it's back to Mexico again, courtesy of the INS.

That this peripatetic young man with a criminal record should eventually find his way to two championship belts is inspirational, even though the fragmented and bogus contemporary boxing world features more belt-granting councils, authorities, and federations than ever. Given what Gabriel Sandoval was doing as a teenager in Chicago, he could easily have ended up dead or in prison for a lot longer than the four years he served. Stuck for another four years in Mexico while lawyers argued his case and lesser fighters scrambled for the belts and purses, Sandoval might have become discouraged and stopped training.

On the other hand, you have to hope that this biography won't inspire youngsters to become boxers. The victories of Jesus "El Matador" Chavez are as fleeting as the glory days of any boxer, and after nearly one hundred amateur fights and a long pro career of taking shots to the head, the great likelihood is that if Chavez, now in his thirties, has not already begun to experience the sad consequences of the damage he has sustained, they will come on before long.

This program aired on May 11, 2006. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.

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