THE TOP TEN MATADORS
This form of ranking designates that the top matador was the most sought after by the general public and hence performed the most corridas. Spanish reason doesn't allow innovative thought as someone who capes bulls in one of the top seven plazas in the world for half of his yearly fights is going to find an audience much more rigid and discerning than a young man coming up through the ranks and toreando in small village rings where ears are usually rewarded for just showing up.
Furthermore it is easier to obtain a chance to show your skills in Garrucha, Almeria than land a chance performing in Sevilla in front of a very critical public surrounded by both bull and horse ranches that know the profession.
Up until the year 1992 only 7 matadors had ever fought more than 100 corridas in a single year. That changed when Enrique Ponce came on the scene and performed a record 10 consecutive years more than 100 Corridas.
This year in Sevilla Ponce might have been the first Torero to cut a tail since 1971 (I saw that corrida when Ruiz Miguel killed a Miura recibiendo) but his sword failed him.
The papers have already named him the conquistador for this year's fair, even though he wasn't awarded an ear on the day. Magistral. A complete thinking man's torero. Ponce will take a bad toro and re-educate him and always cuts something every time he appears.
Cesar Jimenez is my favorite torero. Quiet, controlled with a calm demeanor like Manolete, he seems to have been born to demonstrate once again the classic way of taking on the bulls. I drove across Spain to see him confront alone six bulls from six different ranches and he was spectacular. Cesar know bulls, reads them well and knows just how to handle them. Classic, no frills, pure elegance.
Cesar just doesn´t want to be the best, he is seeking a distinct destiny. He has already formed a partnership with Madrid´s great torero of the 80’s and 90`s Joselito so small fine tuning changes are being made daily to this already remarkable torero for the ages.
Last year's number one is so exciting I bet a friend $500 that I could get enough great photos of him from just one afternoon corrida to do a magnificent poster.
Here it is and at HALF PRICE as I've already made my money.
David Fandilla excites you. No one has ever been as good with banderillas as El Fandi. He is worth the price of admission every time.
El Juli was caping bulls in front of 25,000 wild and crazed spectators in Mexico long before he was legally old enough to perform in Spain. He was an instant explosion when he arrived shooting to number one in his first two years.
Julian Lopez is always a main attraction in that he is not afraid to face any bull any afternoon (unlike the famed older toreros Paco Ojeda and Curro Romero who never fought Miuras or other dangerous ranches). Juli has given up putting in banderillas which is a shame.
Javier Conde has a particular technique of toreando that I particularly like. Gypsy enchantment that will lure you too into his unique style. The first time I saw Javier he was a novillero and was magic. He fairly petitioned an acerbic and dour president (who traditionally initiated the corrida by letting a "White Panuelo" - handkerchief drop over the edge of his commentary booth - to start the corrida. Javier wanted the bull no less than pardoned! The president not only refused to pardon it - Orange Panuelo - or even give it a much deserved vuelta - Blue Panuelo - trip around the ring.
So Javier took the only ear he was awarded, walked to the center of the ring and buried it in the sand. Yes, he went to jail for the night, but I've loved him since then.
Javier was in the callejon (circular alley-way where matadors stand before they enter the ring to torear) the day the bull jumped and almost caught me. Each time he sees me he says "Chico no te sabes" meaning I will never know how close that bull was - but believe me, I knew!
Sebestian Castella is the fastest rising star and of an international background. Movie star handsome he purports himself to be French although his father was Spanish and his mother Polish. Sebestian is the flavor of the year already with the two ears he cut in Sevilla.
Graceful, elegant with lots of style and playful cape work. With the muleta he is serious and will not be denied cutting ears if he wants them.
Manuel Jesus calls himself EL CID and he is a conquistador. From Sevilla he also capes in that same pure style the town is known for. Nothing ever flashy, unadulterated and truthful. He conquered Madrid this year by simply not giving up on very difficult toros. He moved the animal around him and never once gave ground. Out the Puerta Principal he was carried and well deserved it.
Cesar Rincon is the only man ever carried out of Madrid’s hallowed cathedral Las Ventas four times in one year. A Columbian with plenty of courage although a very limited repertoire of passes. He is truly valiant and will work a bull to get the best out of the beast. He is having a bad luck year and doesn’t deserve it. Cesar is an authentic torero, the best Columbia has ever had.
Matias Tejela is from Madrid. That means he engages big bulls and unflinchingly too. Classic, long slow passes, each move is determined and concentrated. He became a man over night this year in Madrid in front of his home crowd where he cut an ear from each of his difficult toros. Young he will be around for awhile if he doesn’t get gored badly as he does take proper risks that are appreciated by the learned public—but that too has it’s casualties.
JESULIN DE UBRIQUE
Jesulin de Ubrique I don’t want to even mention, but am required to by law. He was number 1 three years running and broke the unimaginable record of toreando 161 corridas in one year breaking what all critics believed was impossible, the 121 festevos that the Great El Cordobes did.
Jesulin would jump on the back of a bull (rodeo style) if he didn´t feel the crowd was appreciating him enough. A disgrace to true aficionados—most walk out or go for beers while he performs. But it does tell you that during certain epochs of time the masses insisted on being entertained by vaudeville rather than drama.
Pepin Liria is the working man’s torero. If he is listed as performing you know you will get value for money. He fights as often on his knees as standing. His Puerta Gayola is stunning and as frighteningly dangerous.
At long last he is being recognized as a top torero. Playing golf with a friend he phoned me up last week to discuss Sevilla and the photograph I sent him down the phone line. Pepin is a 9 handicap in golf so don’t bet against him.
Copyright © Ric Polansky Spanish version