What an amazing weekend it was for Philippine boxing! The sport indeed took a giant step forward for the ‘three stars and a sun’ as three of our blood and guts warriors scored impressive knockout victories.
First it was Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista staring imminent danger right in the face as he went up against Miguel Angel Mendoza, a knockout artist from Mexico. Bautista’s suspected glass chin held up as knocked Mendoza into the next dimension via count out! (Edited: props to reader esenguson for the correction)
Then we had Glenn “The Filipino Bomber” Donaire, older brother of Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire, making his ring return after a 3-year layoff to score a 9th round TKO against veteran Alex Sanchez in my hometown of Kissimmee, FL (nice place, btw).
And lastly, we had Brian “The Hawaiian Punch” Viloria registering a career-defining KO against Ring Magazine’s #9 P4P fighter Giovani Segura (who I suspect should be out of the rankings by now). It was Viloria’s finest victory as a professional prize fighter.
Among the most interesting things that happened over the weekend was seeing other young, Philippine contenders who are looking to have a big year in 2012. We have Milan Melindo of the famed ALA Gym in attendance for the Viloria fight. Melindo says he is willing to face anyone his promoter puts in front of him even if it was Brian Viloria himself. Melindo looks ready to take on some big challenges, and he’s definitely got the skills to do it. It’s up to his promoter to come up with the opponents who are willing to risk getting in the ring with him.
Also wandering around the arena taking in the festivities was manager/promoter Elmer Anuran, who handles the career of Drian “Gintong Kamao” Francisco. Francisco is a technician with pop in both fists, his awkwardness poses problems for most opponents. As a result, he’s been avoided by the who’s who of his division including Nobuo Nashiro and ring vet Hugo Cazares. Francisco is a stylistic nightmare for either fighter, so I understand the hesitation.
But among all, one fighter stands out above the rest as the Philippines’ most avoided fighter. He’s the WBC Minimumweight Silver Champion and now fights mainly in Mexico after an up and down early career in the Philippines. His name is Denver Cuello, nicknamed “The Excitement” because of his exciting fighting style which more often than not results in early stoppages. He’s got frightening power in both hands and employs a relentless, all action style that isn’t reckless but rather well calculated.
I had a chance to chat with Denver at the Ynares Sports Arena last Sunday and we just had fun goofing off in the front row. I told him, “Denver, people are scared of you man, everyone’s trying to avoid you” and he just laughs it off. He fights whoever they put in front of him he says. The problem is, his opponents always find a way to pull out of the fight. I swear, the man has fought so many ‘last minute replacements’ it’s not even funny. Promoters are scared to put their fighters in the ring with him because of the high risk – low reward nature of the challenge.
Robert Belen, who was also sitting next to us, and I were planning our strategy on how we’d get to sneak a picture in with Manny Pacquiao, the P4P champ who was at the event as a color commentator for GMA. Belen and I have yet to have our picture taken with him as well.
“Ako nga wala pang picture kay Manny eh (Even I don’t have a picture with Manny yet)” Denver told us. Me and Belen laughed it off. And then I told Denver, “I’ll get a picture with you and Manny, when the opportunity comes just pose for the camera and I’ll take the shot!” Denver nodded and agreed.
Immediately after the Viloria-Segura fight was stopped declaring Brian Viloria as the winner, we all rushed ringside to get our shots in and meet the fighters to get some interviews. I noticed Denver climb the ring apron to try and get a shot with The Hawaiian Punch. Denver hands me his iPhone and I get a shot of him and Brian.
And as Manny Pacquiao wrapped up his commentary duties with GMA TV, a swarm of fans and media rushed to him as he was engulfed in a sea of people wanting to get their picture taken with the Pinoy Idol. Denver took his chance and saw this as his best opportunity to get a shot with Manny. He handed his iPhone to Chino Trinidad who took the shot. The resulting photo was awful to say the least. It was over exposed and blurred. You couldn’t make out who was who. Denver was sad as he showed me the photo.
Then, in a chance moment, Denver suddenly found himself behind Manny as the P4P champ was signing autographs. “Denver, this is your chance man!” I yelled at him. He smiled and I took the photo. It’s not the best photo, Manny was busy signing stuff, but it will do for now – until the next opportunity presents itself.
Denver caught Manny Pacquiao as he tried to duck him for a photo op, but we snuck in a sweet counter that found the mark.
As for myself, I still haven’t gotten my picture taken with Manny.
Manny Pacquiao continues to duck me to this day.