Tag 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].”

The Champions of Tomorrow

The Philippine sporting scene is mostly patterned after the United States model. Athletes develop from the grassroots level to the collegiate ranks. Academic institutions play a major part in honing our sporting champions, unlike the club and sport school systems in Europe. Education takes precedence over sports, since a professional sporting career is a rarity outside the Four B’s: Basketball, Bowling, Billiards and Boxing.

The Leyte Sports Academy is a unique institution. It adheres to a special sports curriculum of the Department of Education. Established in 2010, it provides secondary school education to athletically-gifted students. A feature by Jessica Soho’s “Kapuso Mo” show provides a glimpse of the LSA’s novel approach to education and sports. Student-athletes wake up before dawn to train for their respective discplines: athletics, swimming and boxing.

My high school coach, Edward Sediego, handles the athletics program of LSA.

Read: “Leyte Sports Academy, a first of its kind”

The LSA shoulders the costs of the students’ food and sporting equipment needs, as well board & lodging. In fact, the living quarters of the student-athletes are perched right on top of the classrooms. The training facilities are sufficient by Philippine standards. An Olympic-sized swimming pool, a boxing gym and an athletics stadium are easily accesible. However, as shown by Soho’s feature, some of the most vital training equipment like boxing gloves are quite worn out.

The choice of sports is a noteworthy move. The Philippines has won nine Olympic medals since its first appearance at the 1924 Paris Games. All of these medals came from boxing (2 silvers, 3 bronzes), athletics (2 bronzes) and swimming (2 bronzes). Our country came tantalizingly close to winning its first Olympic Gold medal in 1964 and 1996, where Anthony Villanueva and Onyok Velasco lost closely-fought bouts, respectively. Athletics and swimming are medal-rich events, where Filipinos have achieved some measure of success, albeit in the distant past.

The Filipino sporting potential in those three sports are huge – the prospects for much-bigger international success is astounding, considering our young population of one hundred million.

This early, LSA students have reaped success in national level competitions like the Batang Pinoy Games and the Palarong Pambansa. John Smith struck silver at the Batang Pinoy boxing competition last year. Vivencio Cabias emulated Smith’s feat, as he cleared 3.11m in the pole vault, en route to silver medal at the recently concluded Palarong Pambansa.

The LSA, with its unique, scientific, and holistic approach to grassroots sports development has taken the concept of the Filipino student-athlete several leaps forward. This no-nonsense focus on honing one’s skills, while maintaing certain academic standards, is unparalleled. It gives the LSA students a definite competitive advantage  as they progress from the grassroots level to the collegiate, and ultimately the elite ranks.

The youth of today are the champions of tomorrow.

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.

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.

Salamat, Manny!

Photo from Yahoo.com

Great Nike Ads!

I like the Three Stripes better than the Swoosh. There’s just something elegant about Adidas. But then again, Nike makes the best sports ads.

Here are some of the Nike Ads I love best:

1.) Write the Future (2010) –
I’m not a football fan, but this somehow gets me into the World Cup groove. I like how the clip explores the various outcomes of a football match – and the touch of humour as well. The fact that Kobe and Federer are featured in the campaign bridges the football divide.

2.) Nike South Africa (2006) –
I used to recite the lines uttered in the video back in college. It exudes the gung-ho, no-fear attitude one has to have to succeed in sports. I’m not familiar with most of the South African athletes in the ad, aside from Godfrey Mokoena and the Blade Runner, Oscar Pistorius, nevertheless, it’s a quite a powerful commercial.

3.) Nike Training –

Liu Xiang and Manny Pacquiao in one commercial. Need I say more?

4.) Nike Courage (2008) –

The following ad is short, but the awesome soundtrack and classic sporting moments (Liu Xiang, Carl Lewis, Derek Redmond, Michael Jordan!) featured in it contribute to one inspiring, bad-ass ad – the best among the three.

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