As Jose Aceves stood on the U.S.
bank of the Rio Grande 27 years ago, his prospects looked dim indeed. He was a 14-year-old wetback from Guadalajara who had crossed the border illegally to earn money to help support his large and fatherless family in Mexico.
From California fruit picker, he shifted to boxing as a lightweight (130 lbs.) and won 17 of 19 bouts. Later he got a job as a helper in a tool and die shop in the Oakland area, went to night school to learn English, mathematics and mechanical drawing.
Within a year, he broke production records and was...