CACERES, Spain — A 16-year-old Spanish matador is taking on six bulls in one afternoon in a dangerous feat usually attempted only by seasoned veterans.
Jairo Miguel Sanchez Alonso will fight the bulls in his hometown of Caceres, in Spain's southwestern Extremadura Region.
The average age for matadors in Spain is 25 to 30, and the minimum age requirement is 16. Jairo Miguel — he uses that as his showbiz name — spent some four years fighting in Latin America to escape Spain's age limit.
The normal format for a bullfight is three matadors taking on two animals each. Aficionados say it is extremely rare for a matador as young as 16 to fight six, a challenge requiring great physical and mental stamina.
In an interview the night before the big fight, Jairo Miguel, the son of a bullfighter, said he was nervous but confident in his skills. A tall, slender boy with a baby-face and a nice smile, he bears a scar from a ghastly goring that nearly punctured his heart in Mexico in 2007.
He got started at age 6, locking horns with a young cow.
"Ever since I was very small I have had this in my genes," he said. "I have practically grown up with bulls," he told The Associated Press.
Juan Belmonte, a bullfighting critic for Canal Sur television in Seville, said Jairo Miguel is largely untested but a promising matador.
"Imagine a class of first-graders. There is always one that stands out. That is Jairo Miguel," he said.
Belmonte said that of the 800-odd bullfighters active in Spain, just a handful took on six of the 500-600-kilo (1,100-1,300-pound) beasts at age 16.
One of them was Julian Lopez, who did it in 1998 and is now one of Spain's top bullfighters. He did it in Madrid's storied and very demanding Las Ventas ring, bullfighting's equivalent of Madison Square Garden. He won top honors, being carried out of the ring on fans' shoulders and claiming two trophies — ears from bulls he had just slain.
Jairo Miguel's setting is much less grandiose: a smallish, second-category ring in a preseason charity event to benefit children with autism.
His mother, Celia Alonso, said she chain-smokes in the days leading up to one of her son's fights, cannot sleep even with tranquilizers and would prefer he do anything but this — "football, computers, whatever."
"But he has chosen this and I have to support him," Alonso said. "All I know is what his eyes say when he struts out into the ring."