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    Philippine boxing is down but not out, insist experts

    Is the golden era of Philippine boxing over? Not so, say experts
    Jul 25, 2022
    Manny Pacquiao, Donaire, Ancajas, Magsayo, Nietes

    LIKE dominoes, they fell one after the other.

    From Nonito Donaire Jr. to Mark Magsayo, Filipino world champions lost one after the other early in the year that even before the third quarter of 2022 was over, the country no longer had a single reigning title holder left.

    It’s been a long since the Philippines has had no world boxing champion, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time less than a year after the great Manny Pacquiao officially retired from the ring.

    So does this signal the end of the glory years of Philippine boxing?

    [See Pacquiao says no plan for a comeback]

    Two long-time boxing analysts, a top executive of a boxing promotion, and no less then Pacquiao’s childhood buddy and longtime trainer were one in saying that Philippine boxing may be down but it's not out.

    “I don’t think this is the end of Philippine boxing’s golden era. We are just going through a phase. I mean, we got so high, we thought the Pacquiao, Donaire, and Nietes era will never end,” said boxing commentator and SPIN.ph columnist Atty. Ed Tolentino.


    “And then, 'Boom!' we wake up and the Pacman has retired. ‘The Flash’ is almost headed there, too, and Nietes is also barely holding on.”

    Nick Giongco, assistant editor of the Daily Tribune and one of the country’s leading boxing writers, agreed with Tolentino, saying that sooner or later, another Filipino would reign as world champion.

    Naoya Inoue celebrates his second-round stoppage for Nonito Donaire.

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    “The situation now is dire given the top guns are no longer reigning. It’s going to take some time before the country gets the luxury of parading multiple world champions,” said the veteran beat writer, who chronicled Pacquiao’s entire fighting career.

    Maybe expectations became a bit too high since local boxing fans had become spoiled by choice and grown accustomed to seeing Filipino fighters victorious inside the ring with champion belts wrapped around their waist.

    Pacquiao’s rise to superstardom and legendary status sparked that renaissance, which the likes of Donaire, Brian Viloria, Nietes, Jerwin Ancajas, Johnriel Casimero, to name a few, later sustained.

    Jerwin Ancajas, Fernando Martinez


    Even at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic from 2020 to 2021, the country didn’t lack in world champions in the persons of Pacquiao, Ancajas, Casimero, Pedro Taduran, Rene Mark Cuarto, Vic Saludar, Donaire, and Magsayo.

    When Pacquiao finally retired in August of last year following a 12-round unanimous decision against Cuban Yordenis Ugas in a failed bid for the WBA welterweight crown, Donaire and Co. were expected to carry the torch for Philippine boxing.

    But they fell by the wayside one by one this year.


      Although Magsayo began 2022 on a high note by wresting the WBC featherweight crown from Gary Russell Jr., the jubilation didn't last long.

      Ancajas was the first to go down, yielding his IBF super-flyweight crown against Argentine Fernando Martinez via unanimous decision in an action-packed fight in Las Vegas, Nevada.

      Casimero would follow suit, sadly when his antics finally caught up with him.

      The WBO stripped the 32-year-old Filipino of his WBO bantamweight crown due to ‘medical guidelines violation’ in his re-scheduled title fight against Paul Butler in Liverpool, England.


      Donaire suffered the same fate as Ancajas as he lost his highly-anticipated rematch against undefeated Japanese Naoya Inoue via a brutal second-round TKO in their world bantamweight unification match in Saitama, Japan.

      [See 'Monster' Inoue finishes off Donaire in devastating fashion]

      Shortly after, Cuarto also found himself without a belt after losing a split decision to Daniel Valladares in Monterrey, Mexico. Prior to his defeat to the Mexican, the 25-year-old Filipino was coming off a majority decision win against compatriot Taduran in their rematch for the IBF mini-flyweight championship.

      The last man standing, Magsayo, failed to hold on for long, with Mexican Rey Vargas scoring a split decision to snatch away his WBC title at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

      [See Magsayo loses world title despite decking foe]

      While the trend may be alarming, Sean Gibbons, president of Pacquao's own boxing outfit MP Promotions, believes the title drought won’t be for long.


      “It’s a cycle. We’re in a lull at the moment, but it won’t be long,” he said.

      Tolentino shared the same sentiment, saying it’s not the first time in Philippine boxing history that the country had no current world champion.

      “We went through the same phase after Gabriel Elorde retired in the late 1960s,” he said, referring to the late boxing great who reigned as WBC super-featherweight king for seven years.

      “We had a similar good run in the 1960s. Then came the lull after Elorde’s reign.”

      Paul Butler gets his way against Jonas Sultan.


      Jonas Sultan attempted to make it to the list of Filipino world champions this year, but was denied by Butler by way of a unanimous decision as a last-minute replacement for Casimero.

      Just last week, Nietes tried to restore Philippine pride when he fought for the WBO super-flyweight crown in his second fight against reigning champion Kazuto Ioka. But the Japanese fighter instead exacted revenge against his former tormentor when he retained his crown via unanimous decision in Tokyo, Japan.

      The series of setbacks notwithstanding, Pacquiao trainer Buboy Fernandez is confident these same former champs will bring Philippine boxing back to its feet along with a new wave of younger, upcoming fighters.

      “Hindi pa tapos yung laban nila. Matalo man sila ngayon, pero bukas magiging world champion ulit sila,” he said.


        “Hindi pa lumulubog yung araw nila sa boxing. Charge it to experience lang. Pag-aralan nila kung saan sila natalo at bakit sila natalo. Ano ang pagkukulang na hindi nila ginawa? Ano ang nangyari sa laban? Alam naman natin na ginawa nila ang best nila, pero saan ba sila natalo? Yun ang dapat pag-aralan nila.”


        Giongco sees some of these former world champions eventually regaining their lofty places at the top.

        “There is hope in a few title hopefuls like Marlon Tapales, and ex-champs Ancajas and Cuarto,” he said. “Of course, Magsayo is there, while also in the mix is Casimero.”

        While Philippine boxing may never see another Pacquiao, Tolentino believes there are a slew of potential champions waiting in the wings, including another special fighter like the Pacman.

        “Somebody special always comes along. Admittedly though, we have been slow in developing our fistic talents,” said the popular boxing analyst.

        “The development of youngsters like KJ Cataraja and Carl Jammes Martin have been quite slow. They need to be unleashed.”

        Manny Pacquiao


        Fernandez said the return of Pacquiao in the ring against Korean martial artist and YouTuber DK Yoo even for just an exhibition match could perhaps inspire the young generation of Filipino boxers.

        “Umpisahan ulit nating mag-train ng mga batang Filipino fighters para ma-build up natin sila ng mas maaga para makagawa tayo ng mas magagaling na Filipino champion,” said the former vice-mayor of Polangui, Albay.

        “Masyado pang maaga para mawalan ng pag-asa. Siguro kailangan natin silang suportahan para magkaroon ulit tayo ng mga bagong world champions.”

        Although retired – for now – Pacquiao will forever remain a source of inspiration for Philippine boxing, added Tolentino.

        “Philippine boxing is now biding its time. Great champs are not made overnight,” he said. “But with today’s boxers looking up to Pacquiao, Donaire as their idols, the next wave of talents should be great.”

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