Denver based welterweight Daniel Calzada ultimately came up short in his clash with the talented and undefeated Brian Ceballo tonight at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Calzada showed Ceballo early on why the New Mexican was widely regarded as one of the cagiest fighters in Colorado. Although Ceballo was winning the round with activity he still seemed to have trouble with the defense of Calzada. At times Calzada would successfully move his head to such effect that he had Ceballo throwing three-punch combinations that would hit nothing but air. But in the end the speed and strength of Ceballo was too much for Calzada. By round two Ceballo began to find a home for his right hand, although Calzada showed his toughness in standing his ground. By round three Ceballo was in total control and seemed to snap Calzada’s head back with right hands and left hooks. Still, the New Mexico born brawler refused to take a backward step and certainly impressed the capacity crowd with his grit and toughness. After four rounds of action all theee judges scored the fight 40-36. With the win Ceballo improves to 6-0, 3 KOs while Calzada slips to 16-20-3, 2 KOs. Calzada has only been stopped twice in his 39-fight career.
The Southwest is off to a solid start in New York as Mexican brawler Abdiel Ramirez, 142.4, scored and upset against local boy Michael Perez, 142.6 at 0:54 of round eight. Ramirez, who hails from Ciudad Juarez, pressured the Newark, New Jersey native relentlessly from round one. The Mexican dropped Perez in the closing minute of round one (although it did appear to be more of a slip) and continued to pressure Perez relentlessly in rounds two and three. Perez bounces back effectively in round four, dropping the Mexican with a counter right uppercut/cross. But even after dropping Ramirez he was unable to slow down the relentless pressure of the Mexican and by round eight it appeared that he had dug himself a large deficit on the scorecards. Not willing to leave anything to chance Ramirez slammed on the accelerator in the final round, pressuring Perez on the ropes beforedroppinng him with a pair of uppercuts. The fight was waved off without a count. With the win the Ciudad Juarez based brawler improves to 24-3-1, 22 KOs. Perez drops to 25-3-2, 11 KOs.
Odessa, Texas may not be a boxing Mecca yet, but if undefeated Texan Desmond “Dez” Hill (3-0, 3 KOs) continues his winning ways that may change in 2019. The Odessa native will fight for the first time in his hometown on December 8th at the Ector County Coliseum and he will do it with boxing royalty watching.
The legendary Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran has been confirmed as a special guest for the Odessa show by promoter Isidro Castillo. Duran, a 2006 International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, is one of the sport’s most recognizable personalities and is widely regarded as one of the greatest fighters of the 20thcentury. He was perhaps best remembered for his trilogy against “Sugar” Ray Leonard as well as his reign as lightweight champion from June of 1972 to January of 1978. Interestingly enough, Duran’s appearance ringside for the Odessa fight card on December 8th will come 29-years and one day after his third and final fight with “Sugar” Ray Leonard. Leonard defeated Duran by way of 12-round decision on December 7, 1989 in Las Vegas Nevada in one of the sports earliest PPV fights.
Although Duran will be available to meet with fans and sign autographs, West Texas boxing fans will nonetheless be excited to also see their native son as he takes his first major step up in class in the boxing ring. Hill, a former MMA fighter and King of the Cage veteran, will take on the cagy veteran Ricard “Rico” Urquizo (4-5-2, 2 KOs) in a four round light-heavyweight fight. Although Urquizo doesn’t possess the flashiest record he has proven to be a more than able gatekeeper in the southwest, who possess a veteran bag of tricks. Urquizo has already scored impressive wins over Michael Sanchez and Omar Acosta earlier this year and also challenged for the NABF Junior Cruiserweight title back in July. Although he came up short in his only title fight it still established Urquizo as the most seasoned fighter in the Permian Basin. Nonetheless Hill has shown flashes of brilliance in his three knockout wins and he has many fight fans talking world ranking…assuming he continues to dominate against the next tier of fighters like Urquizo.
In the co-main event undefeated lightweight Abel Mendoza (11-0, 8 KOs) of Pecos, Texas is scheduled to take on undefeated MExican welterweight Arturo Manriquez (2-0) in a four round fight. Mendoza has looked the part of a world class prospect in his eleven fights…but he has yet to fight a boxer with a winning record and in his last five fights his opponents have a less than stellar record of 8-35-1. Nonetheless matchmaker and promoter Isidro Castillo has earned a reputation in the Southwest of being an able matchmaker who can find gritty and tough opponents for just about anyone, and many are assuming that he unknown MExican will not disappoint when all is said and done.
Also rounding off the card will be Roman Huerta Hobbs against Mark Sanchez of Midland in a heavyweight matchup. Both Huerta and Sanchez will be making their professional debuts. Carlos Villalva (1-0) of Seminole will take on rookie Larry Sanchez of Odessa in a four round welterweight fight. Opening the night of boxing will be Jimmy Meza of Odessa as he makes his professional debut against Roswell New Mexico’s Tyler Cole (0-1). The fight card will be promoted by Isidro Castillo and Eric Gutierrez in partnership with Golden Eagle Promotions out of Texas. Tickets can be purchased at the Ector County Coliseum or by calling promoter Isidro Castillo at 1-575-263-4942.
New Mexico fight fans will be pleased to know that one of our own is fighting on the undercard of the ESPN televised Lomachenko-Pedraza fight in New York City on December 8th. At the weigh in Denver based Daniel Calzada (16-19-3, 2 KOs) weighed in at a ready 147.6 for his four round welterweight fight against undefeated Brian Ceballo (5-0, 3 KOs). Ceballo weighed in at 147.8. Although Calzada lives and fights out of Colorado he was originally from New Mexico and was born in Dona Ana.
Albuquerque New Mexico’s Josh Torres made short work of last minute sub Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez, stopping him in the opening round after just 1:16 of action last night. The fight, which took place at the Manuel Lujan Exhibition Hall at Expo New Mexico, was widely expected to be a difficult one for the New Mexican before the opening bell. And when Rodriguez came in at 155.4 (8.4 pounds over the contracted weight) many wondered if the size advantage might be a substantial factor in the fight. But Torres ultimately had little trouble with the former Mexican prospect. With the win Torres improves to 19-6-2, 11 KOs while Rodriguez drops to 15-6, 11 KOs.
One of New Mexico’s most popular boxers will return to the ring today (December 1st) at the Manuel Lujan Jr. Exhibit Complex at the Expo New Mexico in Albuquerque as local boy Josh Torres (18-6-2, 10 KOs) looks to extend his three fight win streak against last minute sub Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez (15-5, 11 KOs) of Los Mochis, Mexico.
For Torres there is a recognition that it is now or never for the notoriously streaky boxer. Torres is a former WBC USNBC junior welterweight champion, having won the belt against Ranee Ganoy (a fighter who at one point in his career fought in an IBF world title fight eliminator). And Torres is perhaps best remembered for giving former WBO junior welterweight champion Mike Alvarado all he could handle back in 2016, losing a close majority decision to Alvarado in Texas. But his record is also peppered with inexplicable losses to fighters like Rufino Flores (2-5, 0 KOs), Cameron Krael (14-13-3, 3 KOs), Jose Marrufo (11-8-2, 1 KO) as well as a four round draw with Joel Vargas (4-16-2, 4 KOs). Nonetheless, despite these setbacks there is recognition by many boxing fans in New Mexico that when he is on point he can compete with many world class fighters in the welterweight division and can still make one more serious run for contention.
However, Torres can ill afford another setback and after his original opponent, Texan Mohamed Rodriguez (11-6-1, 4 KOs), was forced to drop out of the fight earlier this week due to a shoulder injury he may actually be in with a considerably more dangerous opponent. Torres’s new opponent, Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez, is a former undefeated prospect who is best remembered for his fight with Ruslan Provodnikov in 2015. Rodriguez entered that fight with an impressive 15-0 record, but he was ultimately dominated by the former WBO world champion, getting stopped in four rounds.
And unfortunately for Rodriguez he has had little opportunity to right the ship since then. Rodriguez was thrown in with the wolves, fighting (and losing to) four undefeated world class prospects since his loss to Provodnikov. His fight with Torres is widely recognized as a considerably more reasonable matchup for a young boxer looking to rebuild his career and much like Torres, he has his back to the wall. A loss to Torres would undoubtedly end his dreams of contention, something that is not lost on either fighter. Although Torres and Rodriguez is seen as an even matchup, many boxing insiders nonetheless recognize that it is hard to gauge exactly what sort of test Rodriguez would provide for the New Mexican. His losses were ultimately to undefeated world class prospects and one former world champion whereas his wins tended to come against little known journeymen. Whereas his first fifteen fights saw him defeat opponents with a combined record of 27-108-11 his last four fights saw him lose to fighters with a combined record of 49-0-1. It is this mystery surrounding Rodriguez that makes the Torres-Rodriguez match so interesting, and why many boxing fans regard Rodriguez as a much more dangerous opponent that his original foe.
The Torres-Rodriguez fight is scheduled for eight rounds in the welterweight division.
In the co-main event Aztec, New Mexico’s Joe Gomez (21-7-1, 10 KOs) looks to extend his three fight win streak as he takes on Moris Rodriguez (7-11-1, 5 KOs) of Sacramento in a six round junior middleweight fight. Gomez has once fought Alfredo Angulo in a WBC Continental Americas super welterweight title back in 2011 (losing in the opening round). However, he has seen limited action in the ring since then, fighting only six times in the last seven years. However Gomez has picked up the pace slightly in 2018, with his fight against Rodriguez being his second this year. Rodriguez was stopped in six rounds by main event fighter Josh Torres in his last fight in March of this year.
Rounding off the undefeated Matthew Esquibel (10-0-1, 5 KOs) of Albuquerque takes on journeyman Ricardo Fernandez (3-10-4, 0 KOs) of Juarez, Mexico in a six round junior middleweight fight. Although the fight doesn’t appear to be much of a contest on paper, with Fernandez coming in on the heels of an eight fight losing streak, the conventional wisdom is that the Mexican may still surprise some people. Esquibel struggled in his last fight, being held to a draw by lightly regarded Tavorus Teague back in June and if the same Esquibel that showed up against Teague were to show up tonight fans may be treated to a more competitive fight than expected.
Albuquerque’s Lorenzo Benavidez (0-1) looks for his first win against Michael Sanchez (2-2, 2 KOs) in a four round cruiserweight fight. Jose Luis Sanchez (7-1, 3 KOs) of Albuquerque takes on Oklahoma’s Anthony Hill (1-25, 0 KOs) in a six round junior middleweight fight. And in the opening fight of the night Las Cruces New Mexico’s Jamie Aguilera makes his professional debut against Levi Lucero (0-2) in a four round lightweight fight. Tickets for the event, billed “Expo Explosion II,” start at $25 for general admission and $80 for front row seating.
I’ve covered fights all across the globe and have sat ringside for some of the biggest fights in boxing history…but I think every boxing writer laments the one that got away. And for me that was the night of May 26, 2001.
I was just kicking off my career as a freelance boxing writer in Michigan. I had submitted some material to a few smaller boxing websites and was 11 days away from covering my first fight card for Fightnews.com: a club show in a VFW hall in Durand, Michigan. (for the record, Fightnews didn’t end up posting it, my first published fight report was from a show in Washington D.C.).
But even if I wasn’t a boxing writer at that point I was still a fight fan, which makes May 26, 2001 inexcusable.
That was the day that “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather Jr. defended his WBC Super Featherweight title in Grand Rapids, Michigan against Carlos Hernandez of Argentina. I don’t know why I didn’t make the drive out from Flint to Grand Rapids to see that fight. Floyd was already established as one of boxing’s best champions and although he would dominate Hernandez it would prove to be a historic night: the only knockdown of Mayweather’s career (for the record it wasn’t much of a knockdown).
I would go on to see Mayweather in action in the future…April 8, 2006, when he won a decision over Zab Judah in Las Vegas. But by then Mayweather was a superstar. In Grand Rapids he wasn’t the most recognizable fighter on the planet yet. Hell, he wasn’t even the most recognizable fighter in Michigan yet. He was talented…we all saw it. But somehow that talent wasn’t enough to motivate me to drive one and a half hours to see him in action live.
I guess I just didn’t appreciate how close to greatness I was back on May 26, 2001. And I guess that is why I often pay special attention to those four round fights on the undercard. You never know if that 3-0 kid on the undercard might just be something special. Admittedly they are usually in against a softer touch…but how many of you would say you wouldn’t drive up to Albuquerque to have seen a young Floyd Mayweather Jr. in action, even if it was against a journeyman? Sure the fight featuring that young prospect ends up being pretty lopsided, but you still get to see a young prospect in action…and sometimes that young prospect turns out to be something really, really special. You see the flashes of brilliance…and sometimes you even get to see the rough edges that you know will be polished out before he fights for his first world title.
Yeah, I may have May 26, 2001 as my missed opportunity to see greatness rising…but I am not alone. Just about every fight fan in New Mexico has a date they also have to carry with them: November 30, 1996. 22-years ago to the day.
Because on that day Floyd Mayweather came to Albuquerque.
In an ESPN televised fight card featuring then WBO Super Flyweight champion Johnny Tapia in a title defense, Floyd Mayweather Jr. stopped by for a four round clash with a little know journeyman from Indiana named Reggie Sanders. And if you are a fight fans from New Mexico who for whatever reason didn’t go to the Tingley Coliseum on November 30, 1996 then watching the fight now on YouTube will be painful. You will see hundreds of empty seats all around the ring. Sure we didn’t know that Floyd would become “Money” but it doesn’t change the fact that you missed this golden opportunity. You missed a chance to see an all time great in his only fight in New Mexico.
And interestingly enough, even though the matchup wasn’t exactly a major test for Mayweather, history was made that night at the Tingley Coliseum. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was taken the distance for the first time. Reggie Sanders was able to last the four-round distance with Mayweather and although judges Levi Martinez and William Gantt had Mayweather winning 40-36, one judge (Sandy Pino, a familiar face to fight fans in New Mexico) actually had Sanders winning one round and scored the fight 39-37. So another bit of boxing history occurred in Albuquerque 22-years ago today and New Mexico fight fans in attendance were able to witness it.
Albuquerque saw the first round Floyd Mayweather Jr. would lose as a professional.
Admittedly a lot of fans were probably not paying much attention to the then young boxer from Grand Rapids who was fighting as a professional for only the second time in his career. But those who did…well, they witnessed history in the making. They saw the Beatles with Pete Best on the drums. They saw Michael Jordan playing basketball in college. They saw a young Floyd Mayweather Jr. go the distance for the first time ever. And who knows, maybe they even realized they were watching something special.
There is a fight coming up this weekend in Albuquerque, and although I won’t claim that any of the fighters on that card will become the next Floyd Mayweather Jr. I have to admit…back in 2001 I didn’t think Floyd Mayweather Jr. would become the next Floyd Mayweather Jr. So what do I know? Maybe you shouldn’t take my word for it and you should head down to the Manuel Lujan Building in Albuquerque Saturday night just to make sure you don’t miss something special. A week after that show boxing will head to to Odessa, Texas where a pair of undefeated fighters in Desmond Hill and Abel Mendoza are slated to fight in two separate fights at the Ector County Coliseum. Are either of them the next Canelo Alvarez or Manny Pacquiao? Most people would say no. But those are the same people who didn’t buy these five empty ringside seats for Canelo Alvarez fight agaist Raul Pinzon in Miami back in 2008. Don’t be the five guys not sitting in those seats on Saturday in Albuquerque or on December 8 in Odessa.
And for those of you who missed Albuquerque’s brush with greatness on November 30th, 1996…for those fight fans in New Mexico who were old enough to have gone to that fight card at the Tingley Coliseum and for whatever reason didn’t…
New Mexico’s had no shortage of attractive prospects in boxing since the era of Danny Romero and Johnny Tapia…and for boxing fans in the Land of Enchantment Albuquerque’s undefeated featherweight Jason Sanchez (13-0, 6 KOs) was one of the best prospects the state had ever produced.
Well, it’s time to stop calling him a prospect.
Because now that the World Boxing Organization has released it’s November ratings earlier this week Sanchez graduated to something bigger.
After stunning fellow undefeated prospect Jean Carlos Rivera on October 31 in Panama City, there was little doubt that Sanchez was going to make some noise in boxing. After all, he had just beat one of the best featherweight prospects in the world in front of some of boxing’s biggest power brokers (the WBO annual Convention was taking place that week in Panama City at the same hotel where the fight card was held). He also captured the WBO Youth belt in the process, a belt that often is a precursor to a world ranking.
Sanchez’s hard work and dominant title victory was more than enough in the eyes of the WBO to propel the Albuquerque native into the world rankings at #15.
So where does Sanchez go from here? Well, he needs to continue to win if he is going to move into the top ten, but looking at some of the fighters ranked above him I have to admit, I like his chances against a few of them. I for one think that a fight with California’s Erick Ituarte (20-1-1, 3 KOs) would be a very good match up for Sanchez. Ituarte, the #5 ranked contender, struggled to beat Alberto Torres (11-1-3, 4 KOs) in an NABF Junior title fight back in August of 2017 (Ituarte won a split decision). He also struggled to defeat Isaac Zarate (16-4-3, 2 KOs) by split decision in his only other NABF Junior title fight in May of 2017. Sanchez may not be seen as a puncher but it was obvious that his had enough pop in his punches to give Jean Carlos Rivera a lot of trouble in Panama. And I think he could find similar success against Ituarte, who only has three knockouts in his 22 fights. In fact, one of the most impressive things about Sanchez’s performance in Panama was his relentless attack on Rivera…never letting up and never getting deterred. Against the light punching Ituarte I could see Sanchez duplicate his winning strategy from Panama: walking through Ituarte and manhandling him with relentless pressure. Ituarte was dropped by Zarate in their fight with a counter left cross in the third round, and although it was something of a flash knockdown it was clear after round three that the pressure of Zarate was giving Ituarte a lot of problems. But the underdog simply couldn’t keep the pressure up. By round five Ituarte was in control as the badly winded Zarate began to backpedal.
The thing is…I don’t think Sanchez would fade. He certainly didn’t in Panama, where his relentless pressure was a thing of beauty. Rivera tried to weather the storm but Sanchez never took his foot on the accelerator. Ituarte simply lacks the power to frustrate a determined Sanchez in my opinion. And unlike Zarate, who faded down the stretch, Sanchez will be in Ituarte’s face for all ten rounds. If the same Jason Sanchez who who went to Panama were to head to California for a fight against Ituarte I believe that the New Mexican would come home with the win.
And that could propel Sanchez into a world title fight in 2019…something every fight fan in New Mexico would be excited to see.
PTY…Tocumen International Airport just outside of Panama City, Panama. Nobody who flies anywhere in Latin America can avoid it. It’s the major hub for Copa Airlines (which makes it the major hub for United Airlines for anyone flying anywhere in Latin America with United).
Needless to say, I have had more than my share of layovers in Panama City. But the city, and the country, had always escaped me. Back in 2012 with an overnight layover at PTY I was able to explore the city somewhat. But it was a rush job, and I didn’t really feel that I really saw the city (although my cab driver did show me a few sites that were off the beaten track like the house John McCain use to live in). I saw the Panama Canal from the side of the road at a rest stop and the rest of the sites…well, I saw those from the taxi cab.
But with the 31st Annual WBO Boxing Convention being held in Panama City this year I was given a rare opportunity: the chance to really visit the elusive city whose charm I always brushed up against but had yet to experienced.
And my take?
Well, it’s one hell of an airport.
I know, I know…I usually am not such a Debbie Downer. And right off the bat, the WBO Convention was an absolute knockout. Hosted by the Hotel El Panama I couldn’t ask for a better locale for a boxing convention. And seeing local boy Jason Sanchez win the WBO Youth Title in Panama City while sitting a row over from “Manos De Piedra” Roberto Duran was a memory that I won’t forget anytime soon.
But at the end of the day Panama City itself felt a little like an Epcot Center exhibit of what a Latin American city was suppose to feel like. Panama was clean…too clean. It was prosperous…but somewhere between the Trump Towers and the skyscrapers and international banks I couldn’t help but wonder is something had been lost. Because in some ways Panama City felt like Miami. A big, thriving economic powerhouse with a McDonald’s and a Starbucks on every corner and lots of traffic. A typical big city. But a city that in many ways was a cookie cutter copy of so many other big cities.
But then again, it is easy for me to say that. For the Panamanians who are benefiting from the economic prosperity and growth there is probably no complaints. After all, Panama and Costa Rica are the two most successful and prosperous Central American nations. While Nicaragua teeters on Civil War and Honduras sees thousands of refugees flee their nation Panama sits back and enjoys nearly 6% annual growth and a GDP per capita of over $24,000 per citizen according to the IMF. Considering both Honduras and Nicaragua are hovering around $5,000 you can understand how Panama is a nation on the rise and an economic powerhouse of the region.
Maybe that is the price to pay for economic growth and one of the highest standards of living in Latin America: a certain loss of uniqueness.
My time in Panama City was admittedly spent mostly at the Hotel El Panama where I covered the events associated with the World Boxing Organization convention, but I did get an opportunity to visit some of the sites in the city. Most notably I had two visits to the Miraflores Locks and the Panama Canal. I went with my father and I couldn’t help but think about my grandfather when we went. It was well known in my family how my grandfather loved to see the Soo Locks whenever he was up in Sault Sainte Marie. Michigan. He would find a bench on the river and sit down and just enjoy the modern marvel that was the locks. I couldn’t help but feel like my grandfather was with us as we made our way to the Miraflores Locks…to the worlds most famous locks.
Until we got there and we discovered that at least half of Panama was with us at the locks. Sadly, the Miraflores Locks are designed for functionality…not tourism. And the small museum, theater, and viewing deck just can’t handle the number of tourist wanting to see one of the great wonders of the world.
We paid $30 for dual tickets which allowed us to also see the Biomuseo (Biomuseum) located near the Amador Causeway, which was also listed as one of Panama City’s “must see” attractions. Sadly, I was tied up with my report on the third day of the convention and we didn’t get to the Biomuseo until five minutes after they closed. Still, the guide gave us a nice tour of the outside of the building and some of the history of the region. And from the museum we were able to briefly walk down the causeway and take in an amazing view of both the Bridge of the America’s and of the City itself.
With the sun coming down we made a quick stop to the old town (Casco Viejo) which ultimately felt like a somewhat less impressive version of dozens of other old towns I visited in Latin America.
Even our visit to the Multicentro Mall seemed underwhelming. The Mall was deserted, as was the one Casino we went inside…and I couldn’t help but wonder if Panama City had reached that point in economic development where Amazon replaced Best Buy.
But still, I was glad I got the chance to see Panama City up close. I met Roberto Duran there and saw a side of Latin America that we don’t often see: the prosperous and vibrant Latin American city. The Latin America that has, much like us, found comfort in uniformity.
I realize I may be two weeks late, but it occurred to me that we just passed a very dubious anniversary earlier this month. November 9, 1993…twenty five years ago. On that date we witnessed what would go on to be perhaps the most iconic image of the Bosnian Civil War: the destruction of the Stari Most Bridge in Mostar.
It was Bosnia where I first noticed this phenomenon. As a youth I remembered a photo of what appeared to be a Nazi concentration camp on the cover of a 1992 issue of Time Magazine. And yes there was anger and outrage…but ultimately it was followed by inaction.
But when Croat rebels destroyed the Stari Most Bridge in Mostar the following year it seemed to be a turning point. A moment in which the world collectively started to say “we have to do something.” Sure it took three more years for the war to actually end (and less than one year for the Croats and Bosniaks to reach a settlement) but there was something different about the outrage over that bridge.
As a kid I suddenly knew about the legendary Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, whose student (Mimar Hayruddin) who built the bridge in the 1560s. I suddenly became a student of that bridge. And yet it wasn’t until years after the war that I would learn the history of Harush Ziberi, whose fearful face in an iconic photo would haunted me for years. I didn’t know his name or his story, but to me this was the face of the Bosnian Civil War…and sadly his story, unlike the story of the Bridge in Mostar, would not have a happy ending. Ziberi, I would discover years later, was executed by the Serb paramilitaries that captured him shortly after this photo was taken.
But the Bridge would be rebuilt. The tourist would come back to watch young men jump into the Neretva River below. The city of Mostar would again be forever joined at the hip with the bridge that connected it’s Croat and Bosniak citizens across the river below. Yes, there would be scars…but unlike with Ziberi there would a future for Mostar and the bridge.
For me, my internship in Bosnia in 2004 after my first year in Law School did give me a rare opportunity to witness the return of the Stari Most Bridge. I was living in Sarajevo in the summer of 2004 and although I didn’t get a chance to go to Mostar on July 23rd, 2004 for the official opening of the rebuilt bridge, I was able to visit later that month with a handful of my fellow NGOs from Denver, Colorado.
Right off the bat I could tell that the bridge was very much an integral part of the city and I had trouble imagining how they got by over the last eleven years without it. Dozens of young men stood in swimsuits on the bridge offering to jump into the shallow river below (for a small fee). Although the bridge stands less than 80 feet from the river below you learn to appreciate how high 78 feet really is as you watch the young man crawl over side and jump feet first into the river.
We had an NGO with us named Ben Porter who possessed an adventurers spirit and he did attempt to do the jump himself, but he was strongly discouraged by the locals, who probably didn’t want to deal with having to fish a dead American out of the river. I’m sure there is a method to the jump, one that your typical American thrill seeker would be unaware of…but I wouldn’t have bet against Ben pulling it off. He seemed to have a knack for being able to do the impossible when it came to things like jumping off bridges.
The city of Mostar itself was a beautiful place, but the scars were still ever present. Sure a lot of the main streets were cleaned up nicely, but all you had to do was go down a quiet ally or side street to see the bullet holes in the side of the buildings. To see a stark reminder of the war that seemed to define the nation to many foreigners. Bosnia is, and probably will remain, a word associated with war to many people. Even those who were born after the war, the word itself has developed a new meaning. Lebanon. Chechnya. And Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Then again, that was almost fifteen years ago. Mostar, it appeared to me in 2004, would be a city that found a way to overcome. I could tell that if Bosnia-Herzegovina would spend decades trying to heal the wounds of the conflict…and fix the endemic corruption that was birthed from that conflict and which seemed to hold the nation back. But Mostar seemed different. It would not be a city that let the war define them. They would not forget…but they would overcome. As long as they had that bridge they would overcome.
But a recent visit to Tripadvisor seems to indicate that maybe that was a little too optimistic. I hoped that maybe by now the scars of war have been plastered over. But it appears that the bullet holes still can be seen on the side of the old shopping mall in Mostar.
Maybe in another decade the city will have covered up all of the ugly memories of the war. Maybe in another decade the last remnants of the conflict will be the Catholic Church tower, which appears to have been built at an unusual and unnatural height for one purpose only: to ensure is higher than the minaret of the local mosque mosque.
There are no shortages of memories of the war in Bosnia, and cities like Sarajevo and Srebrenica are yes even Mostar don’t want to let anyone forget what transpired from 1991-1996. But Mostar seemed to want to give tourist another image of Bosnia i Herzegovina as well…a more hopeful image. I can’t blame them for that, Mostar was a nice change of pace when visiting Bosnia. It is a beautiful city whose identity doesn’t seem to have been molded by the war even after her most historic landmark was destroyed by it.
I just wish Harush Ziberi could have seen what it became.