Category Archives: Boxing

“Alab ng Puso”

I must admit that I found Manny Pacquiao’s last three fights mediocre. I am not a boxing expert, but it seemed as if Manny had lost the edge. I cringed each time he and Shane Mosley touched gloves before each round. I mean, what happened to this guy’s promises of giving the fans a good fight? Was this the same rags-to-riches Filipino icon who pummeled the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and Oscar Dela Hoya to submission?

Like most of my countrymen, I am a rabid fan of Pacquiao. I’ve seen all of his fights dating from 2003, prior to his great knockout win over Barrera. When I was a stingy college student with no extra cash to spare, I waited patiently through the the torrents of advertisements on free TV, just to be able to see my idol fight. Throughout the last decade, I felt overjoyed after each of Manny’s hard-fought wins – and crestfallen in the rare times he fell short. I found inspiration in Pacquiao’s meteoric rise, in his work ethic and dedication, as I went about my collegiate athletics career.

Politics and religious views aside, Manny Pacquiao was my hero.

Even if I had my doubts prior to the fourth Pacquiao-Marquez fight, I tuned in to GMA7 delayed telecast yesterday afternoon. Like tens of millions of Filipino viewers, I was left aghast when the wily Marquez felled Pacquiao in the early rounds. When Manny floored the bloodied Mexican in the sixth, I heaved a sigh of relief that proved to be short-lived. Marquez’ right-hand counter hit Manny square in the jaw. As I watched our champion lie motionless on the canvas, I feared for the worst and prayed to the high-heavens for his safety.

I don’t know what’s next for Manny Pacquiao. Whatever his decision, he has every reason to keep his chin up – and pride intact. He fought his heart out, without any pretensions of this being just all for the money. The Pacman was as audacious and daring as he was in those great duels with Morales. In the end, things just did not fall into place for the champion. Manny lost to the better fighter.

I am just a sports fan. I could not possibly give an informed assessment on why Pacquiao lost the bout. But one thing is for certain, even in defeat, Pacquiao is every inch the Filipino hero.

“Ikay matutumba. Ika’y masasawi. Mabibilangan ka ngunit babangon kang muli.” – Rivermaya’s Alab ng Puso

Garcia knocks out Khan

Whoa. Danny Garcia knocks out Amir Khan.

Part 1

Hoping for the Best

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

I was ten years old when boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco won the silver medal at the Atlanta Olympic Games. Even though I have hazy memories of the fight, I can still feel the disappointment. Since then, our best Olympic hopes had fallen in the last three editions of the quadrennial event. Like the rest of the nation, I kept my hopes up each time our fancied amateur boxers and taekwondo jins donned the national colors in Sydney, Athens, and Beijing.

But an Olympic gold, much less a medal, has remained elusive.

I find it farcical each time our sports officials and politicians dangle cash incentives to our athletes, months or weeks prior the Games.  Although it would surely add to the motivation for doing well, training for Olympic Glory takes more than just financial rewards. Even if our athletes excel in regional-level competitions, the international scene is several notches higher. You can’t turn a Southeast Asian Games medalist into an Olympic contender overnight. Our propensity for cramming is not a tried and tested approach to Olympic success.

Amidst all the internal bickering in Philippine sports and its structural flaws, I found myself disillusioned in the run-up to the London Olympics. I have written numerous articles on past Olympic champions from other countries. Except for the sporting feats of our past champions, but my mind goes blank each time I juxtapose the Philippines and the London Olympics.

As an athlete myself, I’ve always been enamored the Olympic ideal. The founder of the Modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, makes an apt description: “The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning, but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering, but fighting well.” In the years I’ve spent devouring all sorts of media about the Olympics, I consider John Stephen Akhwari’s and Derek Redmond’s experiences as the most moving.

Akwhari was a Tanzanian marathoner who finished dead last at the Mexico Olympic Games in 1968. Despite a painful knee injury, he hobbled on to the finish line to the loud cheers of the few spectators and volunteers left. Redmond competed in the 1992 Barcelona Games. At the 400m dash semifinal, he pulled a hamstring midway into the race.  In tears and in obvious pain, the Briton bravely limped to complete the race, as his father ran to him from the stands.

Aside from sports like professional boxing, basketball, billiards and bowling, being a Filipino athlete is not a lucrative profession. Government support and public interest are scant, paling in comparison to the more established sporting nations. The national training facilities, at best, are spartan. To reach for one’s Olympic dreams is a struggle both athletic and financial.

As a Filipino, I’m hoping for a good result in London. Deep down, however, I know for a fact that another Olympic shut-down is possible. There will be finger-pointing when this happens, perhaps even a congressional inquiry. Expect to hear the usual pronouncements of new nation-wide sporting program. It’s all part of the vicious cycle of Philippine sports.

Our sports officials can bicker all they want, but one thing is for certain: our athletes are doing their utmost best under the circumstances  The distinction of competing at the world’s highest stage is an achievement in itself.

The beauty of sport lies in the unexpected. Sometimes, the enormity of the moment could enable an athlete to transcend and deliver. Perhaps if the stars align in favor of the Philippines, one of our athletes might just reach the podium.

I long for the day when a Filipino finally tops an Olympic event. When I do see our athlete stand on top of the podium and hear “Lupang Hinirang” play in the background, I might just shed tears of joy. Until that moment comes, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

To the Filipino Olympians, godspeed!

The Philippine Contingent to the 2012 London Olympics

Mark Javier (Archery)

Rachel Cabral (Archery)

Rene Herrera (Athletics)

Marestella Torres (Athletics)

Mark Barriga (Boxing)

Daniel Caluag (BMX)

Tomoko Hoshina (Judo)

Brian Rosario (Shooting)

Jessie Khing Lacuna (Swimming)

Jasmine Alkhaldi (Swimming)

Hidilyn Diaz (Weightlifting)

‘Nuff Said.

Manny should have won. Check out the CompuBox stats below:

To the judges who gave the match to Bradley: Have your eyes checked. (Photo from Manny Pacquiao’s Official Fan Page)

The photo below says it all:

9gag says it best:

Manny Pacquiao – Para Sa’yo ang Laban na ‘To

Win or lose, you’re still my idol Manny!

Salamat, Manny!

Misquoted Manny

When I read the LA Weekly blog post about Manny Pacquiao saying that “gays should be put to death,” I felt utterly shocked at the seeming intolerance, narrow-mindedness and fundamentalist implications. According to the author, Dennis Romero, Manny quoted Leviticus 20:13 in a National Conservative Examiner interview.

Since then, the seven-division world champion has been hit by an internet firestorm. In the wake of President Obama’s groundbreaking personal shift on same-sex marriage, the many voices of the internet lambasted Pacquiao.

It turns out that Pacquiao did not actually utter the words of the aforesaid bible passage. Granville Ampong, the Examiner journalist who originally interviewed Manny published an article to set things straight: “Pacquiao never said nor recited, nor invoked and nor did he ever refer to such context [gays should be put to death].”

Shocking Lemon – Inner Light (Hajime No Ippo はじめの一歩 2nd Opening)

Hajime no Ippo はじめの一歩 never fails to pump me up!

Riot in Mar del Plata

This is crazy. Moments after knocking out his Argentinean opponent in the 10th round, Filipino Johnriel Casimero saw himself at the middle of a ravenous, boxing-mad mob. The newly-minted interim IBF light-flyweight titlist’s entourage, including his promoter, suffered various head injuries as a result of the hailstorm of chairs, bottles and thrown fists.

It turned out that Luis Lazarte, the losing hometown bet, even threatened the referee, which was caught on tape; thus, prompting the IBF to ban the 40-year old boxer. The Philippines has recalled its ambassador to Argentina and filed a diplomatic protest over the incident.

Luisito Espinosa’s Comeback Bid

I grew up watching Luisito Espinosa. Back in the day when live boxing matches were shown on free TV, with bearable amounts of advertising, Espinosa was the undisputed King of Philippine Boxing. I can hardly remember whom he fought, or the titles Espinosa won, for I wasn’t even in my teens yet. But one thing’s for certain: the name “Luisito Espinosa” shall forever be synonymous with boxing.

Photo from Wikipedia

It tore my heart reading about the decline of Espinosa. Luisito was hamstrung by unscrupulous promoters (he still hasn’t received his $150,000.00 from a fight back in the 90’s). After losing his boxing title in 1999, Lindol’s career went on a downtrend. From a once proud champion, Espinosa now cleans carpets for a California casino.  He was forced into retirement in 2005, suffering crushing losses to no-name upstarts.

According to articles by Inquirer’s Percy Della (7/16/11, PDI) and Phiboxing’s Gov. Manny Pinol, Espinosa is on a comeback trail at the advanced age of forty-four. Well, George Foreman had won titles at that age before, so it isn’t impossible. Will Espinosa do a Foreman? I hope to the high heavens that he does, for the sake of his body.

Respect

Two of Manny Pacquiao’s last four fights have been big yawners. For a person who cashes in million of dollars with each bout, a 50% batting average is terrible.

After the Pacman’s 2nd round demolition of Ricky Hatton, the Miguel Cotto match proved less engaging, as the Puerto Rican ran away from Pacquiao after a vicious knockdown. Joshua Clottey provided token opposition, aside from the occasional jab, as the Ghanaian stayed clamped inside a peek-a-boo defense all night long. The Antonio Margarito fight was the most exciting, thanks to Mexican-American’s gallant if not utterly futile stand.

Need I say more about Shane Mosley? The former pound-per-pound champ, after much pre-fight bombast about surprising the Pacman, danced his way from the Filipino’s fists. I guess when you’re at the tail-end of a storied career, facing retirement and a big fat paycheck, giving a good fight is the farthest thing from one’s mind.

Professional boxing, after all, is a cruel sport where death and permanent disability are constant two-punch combinations.

I enjoyed the Erik Morales-Marcos Maidana showdown much better. Held a few weeks earlier than the so-called blockbuster fight, the bout pitted the grace and experience of El Terible, famous in the Philippines for his storied trilogy with Pacquiao, against the youthful ferocity of El Chino, a knockout artist. The 34-year old Morales, slowed by a career spanning 57 fights, refused to wither under the Maidana’s power shots. The Mexican fared a lot better than Amir Khan, in the latter’s fight against the Argentinian, as Morales snuck in a few punches of his own.

At the end, youth prevailed over experience. Morales left eye was almost entirely shut, swollen after 12 rounds of with the hard-hitting Maidana. And yet, the audience cheered Morales. Even in defeat,  the former champion was feted like the true legend that he is. There were none of the disappointed jeers heard throughout the Pacquiao-Mosley fight.

It would be anachronistic to say that professional boxing should not be about the money. It is about the money, that’s why pro-boxers are called “prizefighters” to quote Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Professional boxing is about giving a good show. And in doing so, the fighter endears himself to the audience in a bond of respect.

Perhaps the ultimate prize is not limited by the size of the purse.

Pacquiao-Mosley at the Blue Eagle Gym! (8 May 2011)

The Ateneo de Manila Track & Field Program presents Manny Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley, live at the Blue Eagle Gym on Sunday, 8 May 2011!

Under-card fights start at 9:00 AM. Tickets are at Php 250.

Photo credit:

Fightfan.com

Extreme Conditions (26 March 2011)

Yesterday morning, I went to Rizal for my customary weekend hurdle workout. Instead of the usual afternoon session, I joined pole vaulters Jerome Margallo and Tonio Ching in Rizal at 8:00 AM. I’ve forgotten how hot the Manila sun can be without adequate shade. Being the night owl that I am, naturally I wilted. Back in the day, I was an all-weather kind-of-guy (I can compete and train under extreme conditions!).

The stadium was a lot crowded than usual. A small group of DLSU tracksters were at the tail-end of their workout. On the far side of the track, Amir Khan himself was in the midst of an intense conditioning session. Also, there were the occasional tennis players competing in the ongoing Mitsubishi Lancer Junior Tennis competition. Being surrounded by gym habitues and running enthusiasts all week long, I found the company of elite athletes personally inspiring!

I cannot recall the last time I trained under such harsh conditions. The sky was almost cloudless as the sun shone mercilessly. I looked with a certain sense of awe at the exuberant kids doing sprint workouts with nary a whimper. I was at the tail-end of my endurance. I wanted to hit the shower, pack my things and head straight to McDonald’s for my recovery meal! With two months to go before the meet, there was no time for such non-sense.

So I soldiered on, resting in the cool dugout in between reps. It wasn’t the best of workouts, with the heat sapping most of my juice. Hence, I was careful not to transcend the limits of my body. Nevertheless, it was an eyeopener – a reminder that I should be ready for all kinds of conditions come competition time. At the end of the customary post-hurdle workout sprints, I felt so fulfilled. Despite my unwanted bout with the harsh mid-morning sun, I was on schedule.

Jorge Arce vs. Hussein Hussein: Attrition

Obviously, I’m not as big as a boxing fan as I am a track & field addict. Outside of Manny Pacquiao, Gerry Penalosa and other Filipino fighters, I find it a chore to watch boxing matches to the finish – despite my deep respect for prizefighters.

Jorge Arce is an exception. He fights with so much heart and displays just the right amount of off-ring flamboyance (I love his cowboy entrance). A few moments ago, I caught a replay of Arce’s first fight with Australian Hussein “Hussy” Hussein. It was like watching a live action version of Hajime No Ippo, without the dramatic voice overs. It was a no-holds barred battle of attrition, with both fighters slugging it out for most of the fight.

By the middle rounds, Arce sustained a mean cut on the bridge of his nose. But he still soldiered on, throwing punches seemingly at will. Hussein was a tad bit less intense, and appeared to buckle after some solid hits from the Mexican. In the 10th round, Arce clipped Hussein with a looping left, causing the latter hit the ropes and bring up his guard. Hussein seemed to have recovered from the blow before Arce again cornered the Australian in the dying seconds of the 10th round. A flurry of punches felled the hapless Hussein as his corner stopped the fight.

At the end of the bout, Arce’s face was a bloodied mess. And yet, you can see the satisfaction in his face. To be able to taste victory after such an herculean effort, truly, is rewarding.

Iron Mike’s Ear-biting Ways

I grew up watching boxing matches. Manny Pacquiao was still unknown. Professional boxing matches at that time were aired live on RPN 9 without much fanfare. I remember watching fights of Luisito Espinosa during lazy Sunday mornings. And like most Filipinos in 1996, my heart sank when Mansueto Velasco narrowly lost the gold in Atlanta.

National pride aside, the infamous Mike TysonEvander Holyfield match stands out. I used to idolize Iron Mike. The name Tyson was synonymous to boxing, for the wide-eyed, ignorant kid that I was! I marveled at the way he knocks out people. In the Tyson-Holyfield fight, I rooted for Mike – until he bit off a piece of the latter’s ear.

I cannot comprehend how a sportsman can do such a thing to a competitor. But then again, boxing is a cruel sport, where death and permanent disability are dire possibilities.

Cochulito zapped by Filipino Flash

It was over in a flash.

The savvy, shifty Nonito Donaire landed a solid left on the Mexican WBC/WBO bantamweight champion in the second round. The Filipino Flash was methodically efficient in the short, abbreviated fight. He displayed composure in the first round, in typical Donaire fashion, as he sized up Fernando Montiel. The US-raised Filipino boxer connected with a left hook in the first round, rocking Montiel – who had never been knocked out in a championship bout until now.

Barely three minutes into the second round, Donaire shocked the predominantly Mexican crowd. In a move reminiscent of the infamous Vic Darchinyan Վախթանգ Դարչինյան knockout, Donaire countered Montiel’s right with a crushing left to the latter’s head.

Montiel fell to the mat and threw his arms up, as the fallen champion jerked involuntarily. True to his nickname, “Cochulito,” the proud Mexican did the chicken dance as he barely made the count. The 31-year old valiantly attempted to soldier on, but the referee stopped the bout as Montiel proved defenseless against the Donaire onslaught.

Donaire was gracious in victory, respectfully going to Montiel’s corner after the bout. There were no brazen displays of machismo. The two fighters, according to the commentary, are good friends off the ring.

Familial conflicts aside (not to mention Dyan Castillejo and Ronnie Nathanielz’s less-than-stellar commentary), it was a highly entertaining match for the knockout hungry Filipino sports fan.

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