2015: Year in review for Latino sports

2015 was quite the year for sports in the world. Especially for Latino athletes and Latino sports fans. There was drama, excitement, accomplishments, shocking moments, and the usual suspects. Latino sports figures were the subject of Twitter trends, Facebook likes, Instagram posts, and YouTube videos. They were the top story on many national sportscasts, the subject of sports talk radio, and golden material for sports writers (including this one).

Latino’s continue to shape the world, especially when it comes to athletic competition. Whether it’s the athlete’s themselves, the fans in the stands, or the fans watching at home, Latino’s continue to play a part in today’s sports world. I can only imagine what 2016 will hold. Here are the top five sports stories for 2015…..

5. Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao was a mucho disappointment.

Mayweather and Pacquiao may not be Latino’s but they are popular with boxing fan’s the world over, especially among Latinos and Hispanics. The May supercard may have generated roughly $300 million in total revenue, but the fight itself left much to be desired. Pacquiao didn’t look like himself during the bout and in the end it was discovered that “Pac-Man” had a serious shoulder injury that required surgery. Mayweather won by unanimous decision and any hopes of ending his undefeated record went down the drain.

Never say never in sports but Mayweather insisted after defeating Andre Berto in September that he has “retired” from the sport of boxing with a record of 49-0. He even surrendered his championships in an attempt to prove that he’s serious. Pacquiao may not get his rematch with Mayweather (not this year anyway) but reports say that he’ll return to the ring in April to complete the trilogy with Timothy Bradley for the WBO Welterweight title. My prediction is that Pacquiao will be a man on a mission and will once again find gold around his waste, while somebody will find a way to get Mayweather back in the squared circle.

4. Chile wins it’s first ever Copa America championship.

2015 meant that the third time was the charm for Chile’s national soccer team. Their third appearance in the Copa America Final (their previous appearances were in 1979 and 1987) finally resulted in capturing South America’s heralded trophy. Their road to the title was not easy as they had to pitch shutouts against Ecuador and Bolivia, survive a draw with Mexico, hold off challenges from Uruguay and Peru, and needed penalty kicks to beat mighty Argentina for the championship. For 2016 I consider Chile equals and expect them to be among the favorites to win the Copa America Centenario later this year.

3. The revival of “El Tri”.

After falling from grace to some degree over the last few years, and after going through 11 head coaches since 2000, Mexico’s national soccer team reclaimed it’s kingdom on this side of the globe last year. They won the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup in July, their first since 2011, and went on to defeat Team USA in the Confederations Cup Playoff in October. They also qualified for this year’s Summer Olympics in the process. Seleccion de futbol de Mexico now has a new lease on life.

I expect them to make a splash on the world stage with this year’s Olympics, next year’s Confederations Cup, and their upcoming World Cup qualifying games should be fun to watch.

2. Latinos dominate Major League Baseball.

Historically, Latinos have always been successful with America’s pastime. But 2015 was a special year for Hispanic players. The Kansas City Royals won the World Series behind the dominant pitching of Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, and Yordano Ventura. They were accompanied by the hitting of Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales, along with the defense of Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar. The Royals had to work their way past the New York Mets –who were led by Cuban sensation Yoenis Cespedes, Dominican flame throwing pitcher Jeurys Familia, and Venezuelan star Wilmer Flores- to win it all.

The Pittsburgh Pirates made their third straight playoff appearance in 2015 (and only their third winning season since 1992) behind a cast of Latino players that included Aramis Ramirez, Sean Rodriguez, Pedro Alvarez, Starling Marte, and Francisco Liriano among others. Other players making an impact included Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, Chicago Cubs (now New York Yankees) infielder Starlin Castro, and Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. Look for even bigger performances in 2016.

1. Victor Espinoza makes history.

Horse racing is a sport typically dominated by Caucasians. But 2015 may have started a new tradition when Mexico’s Victor Espinoza became the first Hispanic jockey, and the first jockey since 1978, to win the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. The Triple Crown is probably the most difficult championship to obtain in all of sports. The Triple Crown is awarded to the horse and jockey that wins the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes all in succession. Since the trophy’s inception in 1919, only 12 horse racing teams –including Espinonza’s- have managed to win it.

Last year was Espinoza’s third attempt at the illusive award. His first attempt came in 2002 while riding War Emblem but he came up short in race number three at Belmont. His second try took place in 2014 with California Chrome who unfortunately suffered an injury after winning the Preakness. My hope for 2016 is that more Latinos and Hispanics will find an interest in horse racing thanks to Espinoza’s accomplishment.

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