Sparring sessions with Pacquiao already felt like 'hitting the jackpot' for little-known Doronio
Leonardo Doronio was Manny Pacquiao's lone Filipino sparmate during the Manila part of his buildup for the Jessie Vargas fight. Gerry Ramos

LEONARDO Doronio never got the opportunity to join Manny Pacquiao and his team in the US for his world welterweight fight with Jessie Vargas.

Still, Pacquiao's triumphant return to the ring felt like his own victory.

The native of Iloilo City beamed with pride as he watched the 37-year-old Pacquiao dominate Vargas on Saturday night (Sunday, Manila time) before a crowd of 16,152 at the Thomas and Mack Center on the way to a 12-round decision.

The 5-foot-7 Doronio, 28, served as the only Filipino sparmate of Pacquiao in the six weeks he held training camp in the Philippines as he prepared for the match against the 27-year-old Vargas.

Along with former US Olympian Jose Ramirez, Doronio helped Pacquiao get in shape  for the Vargas fight in thrice-a-week sparring sessions at the Elorde gym inside the Mall of Asia Complex for more than a month.

And he was obviously pleased with the result as the fighting senator of the country gave the dethroned champion hell for 36 minutes inside the ring.

“Masaya siyempre at nanalo si Manny,” said Doronio, who was left behind in the country and contented himself watching the championship match on television.

Dodie Boy Penalosa, who was a part of Pacquiao’s local training staff, was the one who tapped Doronio to become the sparmate of the eight-time world division champion in his comeback from a brief retirement.

Just like Doronio, Penalosa, among the few Filipino boxer to reign as two-time world champion, failed to go with Pacquiao to the US.

But Doronio doesn’t mind. Being the sparmate of a boxing legend alone was already a big deal for him.

He admitted having sleepless night days before sparring began.

“Hindi ako nakatulog. Sobrang excited ko,” he said. “Ang feeling ko para akong tumama ng jackpot.”

He has nothing but praises for Pacquiao, who, according to Doronio, remains humble even with the current status he enjoys.

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Doronio, an aspiring lightweight from Mandaluyong who sports a 15-13-3 record with 10 KOs, also said the boxing star is caring and generous especially to little-known fighters like him.

“Sobrang bait. Parang hindi world champion at senador kung umasta. Very humble,” he added.

And he also doesn’t move and box like what his age says, Doronio added.

“Sobrang bilis pa rin. Parang hindi 37 years old.”

It’s no surprise for Dorinio that Pacquiao is on top of the boxing world again, a champion anew as his legend continues to grow.

Doronio meanwhile, has his own challenge to face, fighting Japanese Yoshitaka Kato at the famed Korakuen Hall this December 6.

He hopes to bounce back from a TKO loss to Pavel Malikov of Russia in his last outing.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos