August 27, 2004

Bullfight World
By Lyn Sherwood


The plaza judge, or in Spain, the presidente, is the ultimate authority in the bullring. It is he who changes the acts, awards any ears, and enforces the authority of the official regulations governing bullfighting. He can impose fines on toreros for violating those regulations or his orders, or for demonstrating disrespect for his authority. He can even order that any torero or spectator be arrested and thrown into the slammer.

It has become customary that the first ear for any matador’s performance is “awarded” by majority petition of the public. They can also petition for the granting of the life-sparing indulto. But, that doesn’t mean that the crowd controls the bullfight. They can protest a judge’s ruling, but they cannot overturn it.

Well, lately, things have gotten a bit hairy in Spain. It started in Málaga, when the plaza presidente did not award an extra ear to César Rincón. Then it was Matador Condo who did not receive an ear, in spite of majority crowd petition. Last Sunday, in Antequera, things got really bad. The presidente ordered the entire team of Hermoso de Mendoza to be arrested and escorted to jail.

Were these actions correct? Yes. Were they honest? One would have to have been there to determine that. In rare cases, plaza judges have been bribed by toreros. Other times, their awards are based on personal tastes or grudges. Other times, the judge is influenced by the plaza empresario.

But, whatever the case, the judge’s decision is final. He can be roasted by the press. The city’s taurine commission can sanction, or even remove him. But, they cannot overturn his decisions, even when he’s wrong.

Here is how Bullfight World’s Tijuana correspondent Gary Sloan saw last Sunday’s corrida de toros in Plaza Monumental de Tijuana.

Six bulls from Don José Julian Llaguno were presented to matadores Mauricio Portillo, Leonardo Benitez, and Uriel Moreno “El Zapata.


It wasn’t a good afternoon for Mauricio. With his first toro, “Electricista”, at 500 kilos, Portillo accomplished nothing with the capote, as the bull was very bronco. He started his faena de muleta on the left, and pretty much stayed on that side. He had some good moments, but a very low sword placement denied him any awards.  He faced his second bull, “Tesoro” (495 kilos out of turn, in the third spot instead of fourth, and it was a complete fiasco. Nothing was done, at all. And, again, Portillo’s sword work was ugly. He heard one warning aviso from the judge’s box.


With his first animal “Co-cinero”, at 490 kilos, Leonardo invested little effort with the capote. After the pic’ing, Benitez offered a pair of banderillas to Zapata, and they both shined. The faena was very good, mostly on the left, and very smooth. After a good sword, one ear was awarded. With his second bull, “Ayudante”, weighing 475 kilos, Leonardo demonstrated good work with the capote, starting with verónicas, then—without the benefit of a climaxing lance (an unforgivable sin)—he switched to crowd-pleasing, but simple, chicuelinas.

He placed three pairs of sticks in very fine fashion. Once again he offered a good faena, running the hand on both sides. One pinchazo, then one full placement, and an ear was awarded.


With his first toro, “Viajero”, at 530 kilos, Uriel started with two largas cam-biadas, against the boards, followed by some chicuelinas that got everybody excited. After the pic’ing, he invited Benitez to place a pair of banderillas. Zapata went first, and placed a Par de Calafia in los medios that was sensational. The rest of the stick work was rather anticlimactic.

A good faena followed. After a couple of pinchazos, then a good sword, Zapata was awarded with applause. With his second bull, “Casero”, at 490 kilos, Uriel greeted the toro with four faroles in los medios. He never left his knees, and he never moved off the spot. The lances brought down the house. After the pic’ing, he placed three pairs of sticks, including a pair of cortas, for more ovations.

His faena was grand, dominating the bull on both sides. He did it all. A great estocada, and it was over. Two ears were awarded.

In all, it was a very interesting corrida. The next corrida will be September the 5th and will feature the retirement of Miguel Espinosa “Armillita Chico”, with El Zotoluco, and José Maria Luevano.


Spanish rejoneador Antonio Domecq was injured, during a tienta at the El Carrascal ranch. He fell from his horse, hitting his head and knocking himself unconscious. After being treated by a doctor who was present, Domecq was transported by helicopter to the Hospital Universitario de Cádiz, where a variety of tests were made on his head and neck.

Spanish Matador Antonio Barrera, who has enjoyed several triumphant afternoons in Tijuana, was gored, last Sunday, in Barcelona, while he performed in the third act. The bull, from Esteban Isidro, broke the torero’s tibia and inflicted a variety of other injuries.

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