I’M AMONG THE first to arrive, but the television is already loud, and the cheering is even louder. “There you go, Josesito! Get that jab going!” It’s fight night at the Mercer Island apartment of Pedro Gomez, who hosts up to a dozen boxing fans six to eight times a year for the biggest of the big events.
Tonight there are just four fans, but the energy feels much bigger.
The first two men to greet me are Pedro and his younger brother, Ramon. For the Gomez brothers, boxing has been part of their lives for as long as they can remember. “For Mexicans, it’s just part of our culture,” Pedro explains. “Some of the best boxers in the world are Mexican, so it’s something we take pride in.”
Pedro and Ramon grew up fighting — sometimes for kicks, and sometimes to protect themselves. “As migrant workers, we were constantly in new places and around new people. Sometimes that can be dangerous,” says Ramon.
Jaebadiah Gardner nods in agreement. “I grew up in South Central Los Angeles. I was always either running to not get beat up or standing my ground and trying to get a couple of licks in.”
In between tonight’s televised bouts, Showtime airs featurettes about the upcoming boxers’ personal lives, which are absorbed almost as intensely as the fights themselves. “The best fighters always grew up poor, in a tough neighborhood,” Pedro says. “I don’t care if they’re Black, Irish, Mexican, Filipino — they had it tough.”
This is a room of successful young men. Pedro, for example, is the director of external affairs in the office of Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. Gardner is a real estate developer. It’s clear they feel a kinship with the gritty origins of the fighters and the resilience required to succeed in boxing.
“You see so much of somebody’s heart in the ring,” says Zach Wilmot. “We all watch how much they can struggle and keep fighting back.”
Pedro says he respects all fighters. However, his allegiance is clear. “I will never root against a Mexican fighter. Never ever.”
Tonight’s televised fights are taking place in Dallas. There are multiple Mexicans on the fight card and many thousands more in attendance at the event. Pedro can feel the positive energy from 2,000 miles away. “You hear that?” he shouts. “That’s Mexican music they’re playing, Sonidera music from Mexico City. They know how to get us dancing!”
Between rounds, Pedro pours samples from his collection of tequilas and mezcals. The tequilas are mixed with a splash of grapefruit juice; the mezcals are served neat. Pedro insists that everyone try a mezcal from a small unmarked bottle. “This one is my cousin’s,” he says. “Straight from Oaxaca.”
They order two extra-large pies from Pagliacci Pizza. Pedro and Ramon smother their slices with Valentina Salsa Picante. The living room features a new sectional sofa, but the group stands the entire night.
In the main event, Errol Spence Jr. defeats Yordenis Ugas by technical knockout in the 10th round. In his victory interview, an emotional Spence tells the ringside broadcaster, “I got through this because of where I come from, what I’ve been through, and because of how my parents raised me.”
“Hell yeah, man” says Pedro, lifting his glass to toast the fighter. “That’s what boxing is all about.”