LAS VEGAS – People outside Manny Pacquiao’s camp hardly know him and the champion’s own promoter, Bob Arum, once mistakenly called him out as Marvin Sonsona, the Filipino former world boxing champion obviously in the Top Rank boss’ mind.
Marvin Somodio is the least bit slighted. The guy is on cloud nine these days.
The former amateur boxer who spent much of his career fighting under the shadows of Olympians Harry Tanamor and Violito Payla, and who quit the sport to go back to school, has found his true calling as a strength and conditioning coach – thanks to an unbelievable stroke of luck.
“Boxing talaga ang speciality ko, may alam lang ako sa strength and conditioning,” said Somodio, now a strength and conditioning coach in Freddie Roach’s famous sweatshop in Hollywood and one of the trainers of Manny Pacquiao.
To this day, Somodio couldn’t believe the surreal chain of events that ended with him becoming a part of the staff of the world’s most famous boxer.
Somodio, 28, had given up his slot in the national boxing team to concentrate on his civil engineering studies at the University of Baguio, but ended up teaching the sweet science instead when Anson Tiu Co hired him to be a trainer at the Shape Up gym inside the Cooyesan Hotel.
It was there where it all began.
In 2009, when Pacquiao made the Baguio gym his official training camp in the Philippines, Roach spotted Somodio working with local boxers and was impressed with his skills and work ethic.
“Nakita lang ni Freddie na siguro may potential ako, na marunong ako,” recalled Somodio, who since then was regularly tapped as a part-time trainer whenever Pacquiao trained in the Philippines.
Somodio’s biggest break came when Alex Ariza, Pacquiao’s controversial strength and conditioning coach, hurriedly left the Baguio camp while they were in the thick of preparations for the Timothy Bradley fight to work with unbeaten Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez in Mexico.
Roach decided to hire Somodio on the spot.
While the prospect of working with five-time Trainer of the Year and helping train the world’s best fighter excites him, Somodio said the job comes with a lot of pressure as well.
“Kinakabahan din kasi maselan na trabaho, mahirap. Mamaya tayo pa ang maging dahilan kung may mangyaring mali sa laban,” he said.
But he shyly acknowledged that the job comes with a lot of perks. He made his first U.S. trip as part of Pacquiao’s entourage for the title fight against Timothy Bradley and is paid well for training the likes of Pacquiao, former world champion Amir Khan and other boxers in Roach’s famed Wild Card gym.
“Oo,” was his curt reply when asked if the pay was good. “Masarap maging trainer lalo na kung makita mo yung boxer mo na nananalo.”
All these would not have happened if he had allowed his emotions to get the better of him after one of the fighters he handles at Shape Up gym, Karlo Maquinto, died following a fight early this year where Somodio worked his corner.
“Akala ko titigil na ako sa boksing 'nun. Pero na-overcome ko naman yung pagsubok,” Somodio said.
But now he’s ready to make the most of his big break. Somodio will be staying behind at the Wild Card gym for a few more months after the Pacquiao fight to assist Roach in training other fighters.
He doesn’t plan to return to the Philippines until Pacquiao starts his training camp in Baguio for his next fight.
Somodio has only the kindest words for Roach, whom he regards as both his idol and mentor.
“Kahit saan siya pumunta dito, lagi niya ako ini-expose, sinasama sa lahat ng lakad para next time daw marunong na ako,” he said.
“Halos araw-araw may natutunan ako, may nakukuha ako. Lalo na kapag katabi mo siya sa ring, dapat tahimik ka lang. Makinig ka lang 'pag nagsasalita siya.
“Minsan tinatanong niya ako kung ano ang tingin ko, nagbibigay ako ng ideas ko. Siguro nakita niya na tama rin kaya mas lalo niya akong nagugustuhan.”
And the Pacman?
“Si Manny sobrang bait,” Somodio said. “Sa totoo lang siya yung tumulong sa akin para makapunta ako rito. Pusong Pilipino siya talaga.”