Under the lights: Brownsville natives collaborate in Las Vegas

Edward Severn

BROWNSVILLE — In the fight capital of the world, Las Vegas, two Brownsville natives are hard at work.

Marie J. Magdaleno, a filmmaker, is working on a project with professional boxer Omar “El Relámpago” Juárez for arguably the biggest fight of the 23-year-old boxer’s career as he steps into the ring with former two-time champion Rances Barthelemy on May 13 in Las Vegas.

Magdaleno began filming Juárez for the upcoming documentary Thursday as the boxer has already begun his camp for the fight.

“She is a hard worker and goes all out on her films,” Juárez said. “They are going to get every detail needed for people to know my story. That is exactly what I have always wanted. It is a dream come true.”

Magdaleno is an award-winning filmmaker who has worked across North America and has had films shown at festivals in large markets such as New York City and Los Angeles. Magdaleno recently released a short film titled “Petals” that she wrote, directed, produced and served as the lead actor. Petals was filmed in a weekend and was in post-production for only 48 hours.

Brownsville’s Omar Juárez on the treadmill while filmmaker Marie J. Magdaleno and her crew films the boxer. Photo courtesy of Marie J. Magdaleno.

The filmmaker jumped on the opportunity to work with Juárez after doing research on the boxer. It is hard not to root for Juárez after watching interviews and reading about charity work he has done in his hometown.

“Him and I got in touch,” Magdaleno said. “We spoke, and I can just hear in his voice his humbleness and the determination to succeed in his career.

“I thought, scratch everything off the table — we are going with Omar.”

Juárez (14-1-0) is a hard-hitting super lightweight with a clean right hand and a strong left hook, both as fast as lightning, hence the nickname. The Brownsville native is on a three-fight winning streak after his lone blemish to All Rivera in an extremely entertaining fight in the summer of 2021.

Brownsville’s Omar Juárez is gloving up while Brownsville filmmaker Marie J. Magdaleno films for her upcoming documentary on the fighter. Photo courtesy of Marie J. Magdaleno.

Juárez has five knockouts to his name since turning pro in 2018.

“I love boxing, I have always been a fan of the sport,” Magdaleno said. “My first film, almost 10 years ago, was on boxing. Fast forward, here we are with a new documentary that I am going to direct on a star that is from my hometown. It is pretty exciting.”

Magdaleno brought some of the Valley with her.

The filmmaker works with people from all over Texas and even Canada, but does like to uplift local talents. Producer Alyssa Ochoa, editors Carlos Alvarez and Steven Sanders, first assistant director Gerardo Salinas, production assistant Meagan Magdaleno and cinematographer Alexis Lerma are all from the Valley.

“I know as a director and as a woman filmmaker, I want other people to continue to see that it does not matter where you are from — you can keep finding those opportunities,” Magdaleno said.

Juárez is ready for his opportunity in the ring and to show on film that he is more than just a fighter, he said.

Brownsville filmmaker Marie J. Magdaleno and an assistant films boxer Omar Juárez as he trains at Pound 4 Pound boxing gym in Las Vegas. Photo courtesy of Marie J. Magdaleno.

The fight with Barthelemy is an important one for his trajectory with Premier Boxing Champions. A win against a two-time world champion that only has two losses on his record at the age of 37 could yield a big fight in the promotion for the Brownsville native.

“It is perfect for my resume,” Juárez said. “Beating him will only get me closer to my goal, world champion. I am just looking at this opponent, later we will talk about the next. I am 100% focused on my opponent right now.”

Juárez’s fight with Barthelemy is going to be available on Showtime. The documentary itself could be available by the end of summer, as Magdaleno plans to film after the fight as well.

Magdaleno has directed six projects, they are: “Fearless Fight” (2015), “Redemption: Between the Lines” (2016), “Home” (2016), “Piper” (2017), “121” (2019) and “Petals” 2022.

Updates on filming can be found on Magdaleno’s Instagram account, @mariej23, and updates on Juárez’s camp can be found at his Instagram account, @iamomarjuarez.