He has form. Michelito first stood in front of a calf aged five. In November 2009, then 11, he became the youngest novillero, or semi-professional bullfighter in the world, fighting bulls up to 370kg. If Michelito does succeed in becoming a full matador in the new year, the bulls he faces will weigh up to 600kg.
I first met Michelito in 2007. He had his future already mapped out: at 25, he would marry, have two children, fight in Madrid, buy a Ferrari and fly to Paris. I was starting to make a film about child matadors, exploring why children would put themselves in such danger in front of a bull, and why their parents would let them.
Over the course of two years, we filmed Michelito and two other child bullfighters, all at different stages in their careers. This was Mexico, where children as young as six train to become bullfighters. In Spain, it is against the law to kill a bull until you are 16. In Mexico, there is no such law.
Every year, hundreds of tiny would-be matadors – many inspired by Michelito – enrol in some of the dozen or so Mexican bullfighting academies. Children start as becerristas, or calf-fighters. After years of training, some will qualify as novilleros. Few become full matadors before their 20s. A figura, or superstar matador, can earn £335,000 for just one appearance, but for every thousand children that start out, according to bullfighting trainers, only one will make it.
Michelito's French father, Michel Lagravere, is a retired matador. Michelito is sad that his father never made it as a figura. After a promising start, Lagravere's dreams ended in a near-fatal goring in a ring in Madrid. The horns cut through his lung and opened up his head. Now he is back at the big rings with his son. Michelito is determined to make bullfighting history, "if not just for myself, because I've promised my dad".
By the age of 10, Michelito was already famous, often on TV and in the newspapers. He was already performing around Mexico several times a week. "It's fun," he said, "you get to know people. I'm almost always in an aeroplane." It was also turning serious. "If I want to debut as a novillero at 11 and take my alternativa at 14, now I have to get used to the big rings, to the competition," he said.
Michelito's fight was taking place in Texcoco, near Mexico City. Then he was baby-faced, chubby with puppy fat. At that stage in his career, Michelito weighed just 29kg (4st 5lb). He had already killed more than 200 bulls. He lit a candle at a makeshift altar in his hotel room and prayed for protection. He was about to step into a bullring and face an animal weighing nearly 300kg.
Michelito's bull entered the ring, snorting and rearing. Michel ran around the ring, bellowing instructions. Even then Michelito was a showman. He twirled his cape so that the bull nearly touched his body. Making dramatic expressions with his face, he stared down the bull. The crowd could not get enough. Michelito got cocky. He dropped to his knees. The move went wrong – the bull jumped on top of him, trampling him.
Michelito made it back to the safety of the callejón, the passage surrounding the ring. He bawled. "It's nothing son, go back in," urged his father. The little boy stood back in front of the bull. The crowd went crazy as the child with the tear-stained face dispatched his bull.
These days Michelito is rarely off the road. He recently spent six weeks on a tour of Peru. His teachers email his homework and he stresses over exams. But the real pressure is in the ring. "The difference with calf and bull fights is that you don't feel the same rivalry between children," he explains, " because they're friends. But in the big fights, a matador comes up to you and says, 'let's see if you can walk the walk' and you think yikes!"