The Life and Career of the Mexican Charles Bronson, Don Ismael Ramirez Cruz

Discover the incredible journey of Don Ismael, also known as the Mexican Charles Bronson. From selling pulque to becoming a renowned wrestler, his story is filled with determination and hard work. Learn about his training, career, and even his involvement in movies.

The Life and Career of the Mexican Charles Bronson, Don Ismael Ramirez Cruz
El Rebelde Rojo - El Toreo de 4 Caminos would see its incognito fall, who started as Pancho Pantera in the 1960s, under the mask was Ismael Rodriguez Cruz, who was also known as "The Mexican Charles Bronson", his executioner in this fight was Ultraman on April 17, 1978. Credit: Dj Spectro 2021

The beginnings of Don Ismael -who thanks to his body and fighting technique was the double of "El Santo" and thanks to his peculiar face the Mexican Charles Bronson- were complicated. From his times of glory, there remains a gymnasium that bears his name, located at 35 Francisco Javier Clavijero Avenue, in the Tránsito neighborhood.

One Sunday in 1944, when Ismael Rodríguez Cruz was ten years old, he stayed waiting for his mother, who would collect the sixty cents the boy earned from selling pulque in the Bindhó - "musical stone" in Otomí- square in Alfajayucan, Hidalgo. Ismael had been thinking for some time about what lay beyond those mountains that could be seen in the distance and that Sunday he boarded a bus that took him to Mexico City.

He lasted seven months in his first job as a waiter in a house where he ran errands, cleaned, swept, or whatever was offered. One morning he had an altercation with the boy in the house, who threatened him with a razor. Ismael scratched his arm with a knife from the kitchen. He was immediately thrown out. Then a bus driver gave him food for cleaning the bus where he could sleep until one day he met the husband of his older sister, who took him to his aunt Nachita, who welcomed him and warned him:

Here to eat you have to work, because you pay rent, you pay electricity, you pay water, everything.

Ismael worked in whatever he could: bricklayer, painter, tinsmith shops, and raising chickens. Then he worked in a shoe repair shop. For four years he got up at four in the morning to get bread at El Pilar -in Pino Suárez- and then dough at a mill on the street of Nezahualcóyotl and 20 de noviembre. As soon as he finished breakfast, he would open the workshop, which he would close until after nine o'clock at night. One day, in 1950, he came across an open window through which he could see a television showing wrestling. At that moment he decided what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

Credit: Matt Farmer

The Humble Beginnings of Ismael Ramírez Cruz

The next day he asked Don Fidel, the mill owner if he would have a job; the hours from 5:00 to 11:00 a.m. were attractive. He was immediately hired. Ismael was never idle; if the other employees had not arrived, he would help wash the corn, arrange the stones, and pour the nixtamal into the toloa (a type of large mortar or grinding stone). Then he joined the Melchor Ocampo school in Coyoacán and the San Francisco gymnasium in the Independencia neighborhood.

His first experience in the ring was a "zoquetiza" - a way for aspiring wrestlers to gain experience and build a reputation. He watched two wrestlers and one of them -he would later learn that it was "Pumita" Valderrama- challenged him:

-What, do you want to pull?
-No, I want to learn,"

Ismael answered enthusiastically and climbed into the ring to beg a few minutes later to please stop. The wrestler kicked him down and told him to come back the next day. Ismael returned. He wasn't even sore from the excitement of learning.

-What happened?

"Pumita" asked.

-Everything all right?
-Yes, everything's fine.
-Well, get in again.

Submissive, Ismael went up again only to be given another "zoquetiza". Four wrestlers arrived, among them "Huracán" Olivera, who told "Pumita":

-Fuck, if you don't teach him, why do you kick him? This is not a game.

The only condition that "Huracán" Olivera set to teach him was constancy, abstinence from alcohol and cigarettes, and that he should eat well. He took the recommendations so literally that the only time Ismael got drunk was with beer, and the hangover lasted three months.

The late ex-wrestler Mexican Charles Bronson and blonde wrestling goddess Lady Apache
The late ex-wrestler Mexican Charles Bronson and blonde wrestling goddess Lady Apache. Credit: sergio Gerardo

The Transformation of the Mexican Wrestler

Thanks to the advice of a colleague who told him: "Look, to be a fighter you first have to look like one, and you look like the Pink Panther", he changed his diet. At 6:00 in the morning, a liter of milk, five pieces of bread, and six warm eggs. At 9:30, two cream cakes and a liter of coffee with milk. At 11:30 a kilo of grilled ribs and eight tortillas. Before entering the literacy school I ate soup, stew, and beans. At 9:30 p.m., I also had soup, stew, and beans for dinner. Pepsi-Cola was never missing.

His training from 1:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon was rigorous: push-ups, pull-ups, pull-ups on the bar, weighted bars, arm, and press. He soon acquired a bulky and muscular body: he is 1.71 m tall and weighed 96 kilos. One of the merits of his training is that from the beginning he was taught to roll and fall; after more than 47 years of career, he has no serious injuries. He trained for five years before stepping into a ring in 1955. He made his debut as "Molinero" Cruz in a corralito in the Nativitas neighborhood that belonged to the wrestler Pepe "el Toro". He did not wear a mask and won; he was given ten pesos.

He had several names: El "Cachorro" Ramírez, La "Pantera Blanca", "Pancho Pantera". It is a pity that the company that held the rights to the last one, from which he requested permission for its use, did not grant it. The argument was that they were looking for a superhero to hook children. They never succeeded. The wrestler "Pancho Pantera" would have been ideal. Faced with the refusal, Ismael had no choice but to change to "Rebelde Rojo", who on April 17, 1977, in the Toreo de Cuatro Caminos would lose the mask to "Ultramán", but would gain the name and the personality with which he consolidated himself as a wrestler. As soon as he lost the mask, the audience began to shout shyly and then with impetus: "Charles Bronson, Charles Bronson, Bronson, Bronson, Bronson...". From that moment on, his name, personality, and style became the Mexican Charles Bronson. Don Ismael recognizes that it was his best name, the one with which he had the greatest acceptance.

The Mexican Charles Bronson Gym in Mexico City.
The Mexican Charles Bronson Gym in Mexico City. Credit: Jesus Flores

The Legacy of the Mexican Charles Bronson

Ismael's career alongside "El Santo" began when Rene Cardona asked Daniel Aldana if he knew anyone who could double "Profe", as "El Santo" was called, in stunts. Aldana didn't hesitate and called Bronson, known for his stiff-legged drops, bouncing in the ring, grappling, and takedowns so similar to those of "El Santo". On June 24, 1966, his birthday, Ismael arrived at the Pyramids of Teotihuacan to film the movie The Treasure of Montezuma. He would film approximately nine.

His film career as the Mexican Charles Bronson includes films such as Anonymous Deadly (Anónimo mortal), Black Gold (Oro negro), Black Magic (Magia negra), and The Raiders (Los asaltantes). In addition, he was the ideal supporting cast for self-defense shows with "El Santo". The Bronson would pretend to kidnap a female volunteer from the audience, only to be stripped of the lady and pinned down by "El Santo". Shortly after, "El Santo" invited his great friend "Blue Demon" and, although the Mexican Bronson continued to participate, he lost prominence next to the two most popular wrestlers in the country.

In 1980 he bought a lot where he would build his home on Francisco Javier Clavijero Avenue, in 1985 he bought the mill next door. On September 27, 1992, five years before retiring from wrestling, he opened the Charles Bronson Mexicano gym under his home, where he offered wrestling, weight training, Zumba, tae kwon do, and boxing.

That Sunday 14-02-1982 I met two admired rivals! One of them is my dear Mr. Ismael Ramirez, "Mexican Charles Bronson", a great friend of my father. Don Ismael, still fought masked as El Rebelde Rojo. The other is my dear partner and teacher VoltioNegro.

The wrestler Rebelde Rojo, better known as the Mexican Charles Bronson, passed away at the age of 88 on January 12, 2022. The son of wrestler El Santo revealed the news through his social networks, recalling the friendship that Ismael Rodríguez Cruz, the real name of the late gladiator, had with his father.

"I deeply regret the passing of Don Ismael Ramirez Cruz, better known as the "Mexican Charles Bronson", he and Carlitos Suarez were my father's best friends. May he rest in peace. I send my condolences to his children, family, and friends. Farewell dear master and friend," posted the son of the Silver Masked Man (Enmascarado de Plata).

Mexican Charles Bronson passed away at the age of 88 on January 12, 2022.

Full Citation: El Charles Bronson Mexicano | Bibiana Camacho,

In-Text Citation:“Fallece El ‘Charles Bronson Mexicano.’” El Mañana, 13 Jan. 2022,