Football or soccer is the most popular sport in Latin America. Famous Latin American sports personalities include Pele, Diego Maradona, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Alex Cueto. Many top players in the Major League Baseball also have come from Latin American countries. Baseball is very popular in the Caribbean basin and other Latin American countries with heavy American influence, such as in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua and Panama.
British sailors are credited in introducing boxing to Latin America when their ships visited Argentinian ports on the way to the Straits of Magellan. The first recorded boxing bout was held in 1903 in Argentina between Abelardo Robassio and Paddy McCarthy.
The first official boxing federation was founded in 1912 in Chile.
Alexis Arguello, born on April 19, 1952 in Nicaragua, was a professional boxer who was a world featherweight, junior lightweight and lightweight champion between 1974 and 1982 and only fought in his homeland from 1968 until 1974, when he became a professional boxer. He went to Panama for the World Boxing Association’s featherweight title but lost to Ernesto Marcel in a 15-round decision.
The most famous Mexican boxer is Julio Caesar Chavez, a world champion including WBC Light Welterweight Championship of the World, the IBF Light Welterweight Championship of the World, WBC Lightweight Championship of the World, WBA Lightweight Championship of the World and the WBC Super Featherweight Championship of the World. Chavez had been the best pound for pound boxer in 1990, 1991 and 1992.
Latin American countries have been champions in World Cup Soccer. Uruguay has twice been champion, in 1930 and 1950. Argentina was champion in 1978 and 1986. Brazil has been champion in World Cup Soccer five times, in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002.
Diego Maradona of Buenos Aires scored what is termed the “Most Beautiful Goal in World Cup History,” which won the 1986 World Cup for Argentina.
Ademir Marques de Menezes, a Brazilian striker, scored the most goals at the 1950 World Cup. He had 32 international goals in 39 appearances.
Pele, born on October 23, 1940 in Tres Coracoes, Brazil, was part of the team that won the first three World Cup titles for Brazil in 1958, 1962 and 1970, Pele scored a still-unbeaten 1,282 goals in his professional career.
The Sixth Street Bridge in Pittsburgh, USA was renamed the Roberto Clemente Bridge as an homage to the ties of Roberto Clemente, a Puerto Rican, to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He won 12 consecutive Gold Glove awards. He won the MVP award in 1966, a season when he was not the best hitter in the National League. Martin Dihigo, a Cuban who played in the Major Leagues, was the only player who was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Cuba, Mexico and the United States.
In Brazilian volleyball, the most famous volleyball player is Gilberto Amaury de Godoy Filho. He is more popularly known as Giba, a key member of the Brazilian volleyball team, and was the winner of the MVP Award in the 2004 Olympic Games, 2006 World Championships and the 2006 World League.
Aryton Senna da Silva, a Formula 1 driver who was born in Sao Paolo, Brazil, was diagnosed with motor coordination problem as a child. His father, who was a serious motor racing enthusiast, noticed his son’s attraction to cars and gave him a 1-hp kart at age 4 and his career in motor racing was born.
Nicolas Massu of Chile was the first man to win double Olympic gold medals -- in 2004 -- in tennis since 1924, when Vince Richards did it.