LOS ANGELES – Foes before, friends today.
The man who served as stepping stone for Manny Pacquiao’s comeback from the lowest point in his career is now part of the entourage, quietly helping the Philippine pride get in the best of shape for his megafight against Floyd Mayweather on May 3 (Manila time) at the MGM Grand.
For the past three years, Reynante Jamili has been part of a group of US-based former boxers called the Kayote Boyz which assist Pacquiao every time he fights in the US beginning with the Filipino’s devastating loss to Juan Manuel Marquez almost three years ago.
Jamili, who works as driver and caregiver in a private health care facility, is again aiding Pacquiao - the same man who dealt him a devastating loss 16 years ago.
Unknown to many, Pacquiao may not be the big star he is today had Jamili beat him in a 1999 encounter which served as Pacquiao’s comeback fight after he was stripped of his World Boxing Council (WBC) flyweight title for failing to make the weight against Medgoen Singsurat in Thailand.
Held at the Elorde Sports Center in Paranaque, the bout was presented by the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) in its bid to help Pacquiao get back on track and contend again for a world title.
Jamili was then handpicked to serve as Pacquiao’s perfect tune-up opponent, especially since he was coming off a sixth-round technical knockout loss to Mexican Eric Morales in a fight for the WBC super bantamweight title.
“Umakyat siya (Pacquiao) ng 122 dahil nahirapan siya sa timbang (against Singsurat). Kaya pinaglaban kami,” recalled Jamili, who, by then, has long been fighting in a higher weight class and was naturally installed as favorite against the 'Pacman.'
“Tingin ko talaga sa kanya maliit dahil galing siya sa 112 (lbs), tapos umakyat siya ng 122. So ang liit niya,” he said.
Both being noted sluggers, the 12-round bout lived up to its billing as Pacquiao and Jamili engaged each other in an exciting toe-to-toe battle from the opening bell.
However, the vaunted power of Pacquiao proved too much for Jamili, who went down thrice in the second round on the way to losing via a technical knockout in the same round.
“Hirap na rin naman kasi ako sa timbang noon,” said Jamili, who left for the US after retiring in 2000 with a ring record of 43-8, with 33 KOs. “Pero yung impact talaga ng suntok niya mabilis at malakas. Yung tama at timing talagang maganda.”
Five fights and two years after the win over Jamili, Pacquiao went on and became champion again with a sixth-round knockout of Lehlo Ledwaba for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) super-bantamweight title right in his US debut at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Since linking up with his former opponent in 2012, Jamili was also let in on a little secret by Pacquiao.
“Ang sabi niya sa akin, 'Itong si Jamili kung lumagpas lang ito ng apat (na rounds) panalo ka run,'” he recalled, meaning Pacquiao, too, was not in the best of shape for that bout 16 years ago and felt he could've been in serious danger had Jamili survived that second-round onslaught.
But fate had other plans.
“Siguro yun ang masasabi kong naging bahagi ko para matulungan si Manny na maabot kung anuman ang narating niya ngayon,” said Jamili.