IT took Dave Apolinario around 60 hours to get to East London, South Africa for his first-ever world title fight.
It took him less than three minutes to become a world champion.
Although basking in the glory of becoming the new IBO flyweight title holder, the 23-year-old Filipino rued the long hours of travel his team endured to reach its destination and challenge home bet Gideon Buthelezi for his world title.
[See Apolinario captures IBO title after 1st-round stoppage of South African foe]
By his own estimate, it took his team that included Sanman CEO Jean Claude Mananquil and manager Mike Pelayo, between 60 to 62 hours before arriving in South Africa a day before the July 29 bout.
"Sobrang layo. Ang daming connecting flight. Sobrang hirap talaga," recalled Apolinario, who was a special guest at ringside along with his team on Sunday during the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals at the Smart Aranate Coliseum.
Initially, the plan had Apolinario arriving in South Africa five days before the fight. But a last-minute change in the itinerary by the fight promoter had the Filipinos' camp travelling longer than expected.
"Wala naman kaming magawa na. Andyan na, e. Kaya tumuloy na rin kami," said Manangquil.
The route had Apolinario going from Gensan to Manila and then Bangkok. From the Thai capital, the team went to Ethopia, then Johannesburg and finally, East London.
To make matter worse, some of the Filipinos' baggages were left out in the connecting flights, including those belonging to Apolinario.
"Pagdating namin dun [South Africa], wala akong gamit. May isa akong short na nailagay sa backpack buti na lang," the champion said.
Other than the short he used in the match, the rest of what he wore on fight night was bought in South Africa.
Come fight day, Apolinario admitted feeling tired and weary.
"Sobrang pagod talaga. Pero kailangan balewalain yung pagod. Sanay naman tayo diyan. Kaya ginawa natin kung ano yung makakaya natin," said the native of Maasim, Sarangani.
Apolinario knew the longer the fight went, the likelier fatigue would take its toll on him that when presented with the opportunity, the Filipino went for the kill.
"Tinapos ko na agad," he admitted. "Ang expectations ko mga six or seven rounds ko siya tatamaan. Pero hindi ko inaasahan talaga na first yun mangyayari.
"Nung tinamaan ako rito (pointing to his body), feel ko kaya ko yung suntok niya kaya nga pinasok ko na siya kasi alam ko kaya ko yung suntok niya."
A wicked left straight by Apolinario jarred Buthelezi and sent him down on his knee. He failed to beat the 10 count as the Filipino's corner erupted in wild celebration.
The end came at the 2:50 mark of the opening round as Apolinario kept his unbeaten record at 17-0 (12 KOs).
Making Apolinario's title victory sweeter was the fact it came in a stretch when the country has no reigning world champion at the moment.
He admitted that was an extra motivation for him.
"Binaon ko yung walang pagka-champion natin. Binaon ko yun sa South Africa. Sa isip ko dadalhin ko talaga yung belt pauwi. Kahit ano mangyari, susugalan ko yung pagiging boksingero ko," said Apolinario.
Shortly upon arrival in the country, Apolinario and his team had a courtesy call at Malacanang to meet President Marcos Jr.
And then they were the special guest of PBA commissioner Willie Marcial during Game 3 of the all-Filipino semifinals seriee as Apolinario admitted he is a big fan of San Miguel big man June Mar Fajardo.
By Wednesday, Apolinario heads back to Sarangani where he hopes to finally meet his No. 1 idol, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao.
The IBO champ then plans to take a well-deserved rest before making a ring comeback hopefully near the end of the year or in early 2023.
There's one thing he is sure of right now, however. Apolinario is shunning fighting in South Africa again.
"Hindi na ako babalil dun. Ang layo, e," he said emphatically.