This is the story of the Ortega family: Arturo, his wife Rita and their three sons, Sonny, Jimmy and Johnny who live in "Browntown," the Chicano section of fictional Mariposa, Arizona. Arturo always dreamed of being a boxing champion but his dreams were cut short when, as a result of a run in with the law, he was sent to fight in Vietnam. Returning to Arizona, Arturo abandoned his boxing ambitions, started a family and settled into a life as an auto factory worker.
Years later, his longing for his former glory and, more pragmatically, the cash winnings, leads Arturo, with sons Sonny and Jimmy in tow, to visit old friend Hector Salmon's boxing gym. Salmon discourages Arturo from fighting but convinces him to take a job working at the gym training neighborhood boys. Salmon also encourages Arturo to continue training Sonny and Jimmy, both of whom have demonstrated an amazing aptitude for boxing during the visit.
Arturo gets his boys fired up about boxing, making them promise that if they pursue it, they pursue it; it's all or nothing. Sonny and Jimmy readily agree. What begins is Arturo's growing obsession to make champions out of his sons. We watch Arturo, who out of ambition, paternal love and a burning need for validation by an American society that has denigrated him because of his race, ceaselessly work the boys in order to fulfill this new version of his old dream.
Years pass and the sons become seasoned fighters. The youngest son, Johnny, also gets drawn into the boxing world. Soon, the Ortega boys come to the attention of Prince Manning, a high profile boxing promoter. A proud and defiant man, Arturo refuses to put his sons' careers in the hands of Manning, setting in motion Manning's efforts to draw the sons away from Arturo. Seduced by the prospects of lucrative purses and growing weary of their father's total control of their lives, the sons are soon at odds with Arturo and with each other over which direction their careers should take. This ultimately sends the Ortega family into turmoil, leading to a powerful and compelling climax.
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