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3 January 1974: Birth of 'housewives' favourite' matador

Fran Rivera Ordóñez, in Burgos 2010.
Fran Rivera Ordóñez, in Burgos 2010. / SUR
  • Fran Rivera was born into one of the greatest bullfighting dynasties of the 20th century and he married into Spain’s most aristocratic family

Born on 3 January 1974, Francisco de Asís Rivera Ordóñez - Fran, as he is affectionately known to his fans - is a matador who was born into one of the most distinguished bullfighting families in Spain.

Rivera's great-grandfather on his mother's side was Cayetano Ordóñez (El Niño de la Palma), the patriarch of the Ordóñez dynasty and his grandfather was Antonio Ordóñez, one of the greatest bullfighters of his era. His father, also Francisco Rivera but better known as Paquirri, was a legendary figure killed in the bullring in Pozoblanco, Cordoba in 1984. Other renowned matadors in his family include Rivera's great-uncle, Luis Miguel Dominguín, and his brother, Cayetano Rivera.

The family name has flourished in Ronda since the early 20th century and it is one of the two significant names associated with the art of bullfighting in the town; the other is Romero.

It was Antonio Ordóñez who took the youngster under his wing following his father's death, and the promising matador received his presentation as a 'novillero' (novice fighter of young bulls) in the Maestranza bullring in Ronda in 1991. He was 'confirmed' in Madrid in 1996.

He went on to enjoy a relatively successful career, performing in Spain's top bullrings with numerous notable fighters. However, even though he was continually likened to Paquirri, he never received the adulation that his father enjoyed.

Although the young matador was relatively well-received within the bullfighting sector, it was not necessarily his skill in the ring that caught the media's attention. His marriage in 1998 to Eugenia Martínez de Irujo, daughter of the Duchess of Alba (who was the most titled noble in the world) brought him unlimited attention from the Spanish press.

Because of his wife's title of 12th Duchess of Montoro, Rivera became Duke Consort of Montoro. However, the marriage failed and the couple divorced in 2002.

The celebrity bullfighter appeared on the cover of magazines like Hola! and he was the subject of numerous daytime gossip programmes, especially for his connection with Spanish singer Isabel Pantoja, his father's second wife.

Known as the 'housewives' favourite' because of his stunning good looks, Rivera had a brief affair with his ex-wife's cousin, Blanca Martínez de Irujo, but he eventually married a 27-year-old lawyer in Ronda in 2013.

Rivera announced his withdrawal from bullfighting in 2012, only to return two years later.

In 2015, he was badly gored in a fight in Huesca and doctors feared he might never fight again due to the severity of his injuries. The incident, for many Spaniards, brought back the memory of the death of his father, who was killed aged just 36. This led to Rivera's eventual retirement during Ronda's Corrida de Goyesca in 2017.