Boxers wrapped in Mexican flags have become an iconic image of the patria. Stephen Allen argues in A History of Boxing in Mexico: Masculinity, Modernity, and Nationalism that this national eminence emerged during the 1930s in concert with changing ideals. The sport of boxing both shaped and was shaped by Mexican identity alongside performances of gender and modernity. Allen contends that boxers became symbolic figures used by the elite in order to brand the revolutionary nation as commercialized and fit for mass consumer capitalism. At the same time, boxers themselves sought high-status careers and the rewards of celebrity. Through the sport, its adherents, and its pugilists, Mexicans made sense of an urbanizing and industrializing world. Lofty abstracts—courage, discipline, mexicanidad—played out in emotional theaters mediated by corrupt officials, media magnates, and international rivalries.

Allen primarily examines the sport from the 1940s...

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