TWO Filipino boxers came close to engaging Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the ring way before he signed up for a fight with Manny Pacquiao in what is expected to be the richest bout ever in boxing history.
But for one reason or another, three-time Olympian Romeo Brin and Eric Canoy never got to trade punches with the boxer considered as the best in the world today, pound-for-pound.
National coach Nolito ‘Boy’ Velasco recalled how Brin and Canoy missed the opportunity to be in the ring with the then 19-year-old Mayweather in the weeks leading up to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
“Si Brin dapat maka-sparring niya si Mayweather dahil `yung US team nag-arrange ng sparring sa amin dahil nga malapit na yung Olympics,” related Velasco, who served as personal trainer to brother Mansueto ‘Onyok’ Velasco and assistant coach to Philippine head coach Raul Liranza of Cuba.
Onyok, Elias Recaido, and Virgilio Vicera did manage to have sparring sessions with their American counterparts, but the US coach (Al Mitchell) didn’t allow Mayweather to box with Brin.
“Masyadong malaki na raw kasi si Brin para kay Mayweather,” said Velasco, adding such was also the case for Fernando Vargas, who was likewise not given the consent to spar with Reynaldo Galido.
“Wala naman kasi tayong boxer na entry sa timbang ni Floyd.”
That could have been Canoy, who unfortunately, failed to make it to the Olympic after missing out in the qualifying tournaments.
Mayweather went on to win a bronze medal from the Atlanta Games, losing in the semifinals to Serafim Toporov of Bulgaria, who, in turn, lost to Thai hero Somluck Kamsing in the gold-medal bout.
Toporov to this day holds the distinction as the last boxer to beat Mayweather, who is unbeaten as a professional.
“Si Canoy sana kung nakalusot, ka-timbang niya si Mayweather,” said the eldest of the celebrated fighting Velasco brothers from Bago City, Negros Occidental.
The US team was a star-studded one with the likes of former world champions Eric Morel, Zahir Raheem, David Diaz, Vargas, David Reid, and Antonio Tarver joining Mayweather.