There are some special rivalries in sport, but few come close to the intense competition felt in a Clasico del Atlantico. Brazil and Argentina have locked horns for decades, most notably on a soccer pitch, leaving blood, sweat, and tears soaked into the grass in order to gain victory for their beloved nations.
It’s a rivalry that can trace its roots to political, geographical, and cultural origins, but one that is most recently showcased by athletes. When these two nations compete, every ounce of energy is drained from the body and no stone is left un-turned in pursuit of bragging rights and a perception of superiority.
“It is something very, very special,” Patrick Teixeira (31-0, 22 KO) told me this week, ahead of his Feb. 13 world title defence against Argentina’s Brian Castano (16-0-1, 12 KO). The Brazilian is the current owner of the WBO junior middleweight strap and has a tough assignment as his first defence.
“Winning against any athlete is an amazing feeling, but when it’s a Brazilian winning against an Argentine it gives it that extra special taste,” he added. “I have nothing particularly against Castano as a fighter, but I also feel nothing in favour of him. I’m determined to be the best at 154 pounds and he’s just another fighter who stands in the way.”
His manager, Patrick Nascimento, agrees. “Both countries just constantly want to be better than the other,” he explained. “It’s a historic rivalry that began even before both countries existed. Spaniards and Portuguese started this feud shortly after the discovery of America, when they divided their lands in the Treaty of Tordesillas. Then, with countries already independent, tension between nations increased with the Cisplatin War.”
If it’s winning they’re after, then Teixeira and his team can already consider themselves 1-0 up. Golden Boy Promotions submitted a superior bid of $427,000 in November for this contest, comfortably defeating the $225,100 offer from Castano’s representatives, PBC associate TGB Promotions. This brings the fight to California, sharing the billing with JoJo Diaz’s IBF junior lightweight defence against Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov.
Despite not fighting since Nov. 2019, Teixeira is adamant that ring rust won’t be an issue upon his return. A bloody and bruised upset win over Carlos Adames is the last bout on his record, dropping the Dominican late in the seventh round to secure a tight unanimous decision in Las Vegas. This saw the southpaw scoop the WBO’s interim title at junior middleweight, and he has since been elevated to full champion following Jaime Munguia’s decision to jump up to middleweight.
Does Teixeira feel any less of a champion? Hell no. “After 13 years without there being a Brazilian world champion, I was able to do it for my country,” he explained. “It was a dream that came true. This is all that matters. I know that people are going to have their opinions, but I had faith in myself that I could achieve this, and importantly, so did Golden Boy Promotions. I proved all the doubters wrong who didn’t think I could achieve such a feat.
“I challenged Munguia several times but he didn’t want to fight. I know I would have done to him exactly what I did to Adames. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity, so I had to go to Adames’ house to show that I am the real champion at 154”.
Teixeira has found peace over a challenging 2020 which has enabled him to rest. “I’ve just kept very quiet and trained in private,” he explained. “Camp has been perfect and we’ve been preparing great here in Oxnard, California. I’m close to my physical peak thanks to the work of my strength and conditioning coach Cicilio Flores.”
He was unwilling to give too much away regarding Castano’s strengths except for calling the 31-year-old a “warrior” and a “born fighter, also alluding to his own “intelligence” that will win him the contest, preferably fighting smart on the outside. But Teixeira was happier to divulge his plans for domination at 154 after Feb. 13.
“I have no doubt that [Jermell] is the current number one in the division,” he said candidly, “but that is only temporary. When we meet, I will take all the belts. That is my plan for 2021: first Castano, then Charlo. I want to be remembered in boxing as the undisputed champion at 154 pounds.”
Teixeira has fought Argentine opponents before. He’s 6-0 against his rivals so far in his career, but this time the stakes couldn’t be much higher. Not since Acelino Freitas vs Jorge Rodrigo Barrios in 2003 has there been a world championship fight between a Brazilian and an Argentine, and if we witness a slither of the action that modern-day classic delivered — Freitas winning by 12th round TKO after both fighters shared two knockdowns each — we’ll all go home happy.
Whether you’re Brazil or Argentina; Pele or Maradona; Teixeira or Castano, there’s sure to be an extra something in the air on Feb. 13.