THE story of Sonny Boy Jaro makes for a Rocky story in Philippine boxing.
The eldest of three children, Jaro grew up in dirt poverty in Silay, Negros Occidental. “Mahirap lang kami (We are poor),” Jaro told this writer. “Ang tatay ko nagtatahi ng sapatos at ako naman ay naging kargador ng bigas sa palengke (My father stitches shoes while I carried sacks of rice in the market).”
Professional boxing provided Jaro a ticket out of the gutter. Looking up to former two-division world champion Gerry Peñalosa, Jaro laced on the gloves in September 2001, stopping Daniel Arisala in four rounds. He went unbeaten in his first four paid contests before getting knocked out in four rounds by Jerry Lota in May 2002. From then on, Jaro was reduced to the status of a journeyman. In boxing parlance, a journeyman is the cannonfodder, the human punching bag for young boxers looking for a stepping stone and champions wanting easy paydays.
The losses came in droves for Jaro. In May 2003, he was bamboozled in two rounds by future International Boxing Federation minimumweight champion Florante Condes. Jaro compiled a decent winning streak after the Condes fight only to get knocked out again in five rounds by Monelisi Myekeni in April 2005.
In September 2008, Jaro was fed to then World Boxing Council (WBC) light-flyweight king Edgar Sosa of Mexico. Jaro knocked down Sosa in round nine but was outclassed throughout the fight and ended up losing via a lopsided decision. A year later, November 2009, Jaro was offered as a sacrificial lamb to World Boxing Association (WBA) light-flyweight king Giovani Segura of Mexico. The power punching Segura demolished Jaro in one round.
Jaro was already contemplating retirement when he found himself in a third world title contest in March this year against dominant WBC flyweight king Pongsaklek Wonjongkam of Thailand. With nothing more to lose, Jaro came out like a house on fire, throwing even the kitchen sink at Wonjongkam. The highly-partisan crowd at Chonburi, Thailand stood flabbergasted as the supposedly washed-up Jaro floored Wonjongkam four times en route to a devastating sixth-round stoppage.
“Hindi ko na alam yung mga suntok niya, basta ang nasa isip ko lang hindi ako susuko kahit ano ang mangyari (I didn’t bother with his punches anymore, the only thing I had in mind was that I won’t surrender whatever happens),” said Jaro. “Alam ko na pag tumama ako sa kanya, mapapabagsak ko siya (I knew that when I hit him, I will put him down).”
From the doghouse to the penthouse. The rousing victory over Wonjongkam injected life into Jaro’s moribund boxing career. Unfortunately, Jaro’s title reign lasted just about as long as it takes for a Playboy model to keep her clothes on.
On July 16, Jaro yielded the WBC crown to Japanese challenger Toshiyuki Igarashi in Saitama, Japan. Jaro put up a good fight, bloodying Igarashi’s left eye in the process. Jaro landed the more telling punches, but Igarashi outworked the former using a pesky jab and lateral movements. When the smoke of battle cleared, Jaro lost via a split decision.
Unlike in his previous losses though, Jaro did not lose his mean streak. He did not talk about retirement and insisted that he still has what it takes to regain the championship.
“Ang talo ko kay Igarashi ay balewala kasi alam ko ako ang panalo (My loss to Igarashi does not mean anything because I know I am the winner),” said Jaro. “Tuloy pa po ang boxing, mas okay ang kundisyon ko ngayon na nasa Jaro stable ako” (I will continue to box because I am in much better condition with the Jaro stable).
Jaro, whose record now reads at 34-11 with 24 knockouts, admitted that Igarashi’s style presented a lot of problems. Then again, should they meet again, Jaro is confident that he will prevail. “Kung mag rematch kami, kailangan ko lang siguro na suntukin siya ng suntukin (If we meet in a rematch, I think I just have to keep on throwing punches at him),” said Jaro.
The future may look cloudy again for Sonny, but the former world champion ardently believes that he still has it in him to whip up one major storm in the ring again before calling it a day.