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By Dong Secuya
17 Jun 2018

TABUELAN, CEBU – That visiting Indonesian Frenky Rohi was ravaged by undefeated Kevin Jake Cataraja over three rounds was just part of the plot. The real story was how a local boy returned to his hometown and caused one of the biggest shows in this remote municipality in the northwestern part of the island and fulfilled a grandfather's dream.

Tabuelan, Cebu's youngest municipality after it separated as a barrio from adjacent Tuburan in 1953, has a population of just over 25,000 according to the last census in 2015. Typical of Cebu's rural towns, it produces copra and corn and is most famous as a transiting point for vehicles and people who cross to the neighboring island of Negros Occidental although its less commercialized beaches have gained traction and are now becoming more popular to local and international tourists. It was here that Leoncio Cataraja, Kevin Jake's grandfather and Tabuelan's ex-police chief, dreamed of becoming a boxer.

Tabuelan ex-police chief Leoncio Cataraja, KJ's grandfather.

“I tried boxing before,” Leoncio, who is in his 70s and is hard of hearing, told Philboxing before Saturday night's fisticuffs. “But I failed to pursue it. So I encouraged my sons to become boxers. And now it is Jake, my grandson, who fulfilled my dream.”

“Marciano [KJ Cataraja's father] used to whipped Kevin by not allowing him to go to the [ALA] gym,” Kevin Jake's uncle Roel, who led a large contingent of relatives and friends from barangay Tigbawan where the Catarajas hail, told Philboxing. “But Kevin [who was only eight years old at that time] always returned back to the gym.”

Marciano, whose family also lived in Talamban in Cebu City near the ALA Gym, eventually relented and allowed Kevin Jake to participate in amateur tournaments where he eventually won gold medals in national competitions. KJ had a total of 105 amateur bouts winning 102 and losing only three. Roel also informed Philboxing that KJ had faced another amateur standout and now WBO world No. 1 ranked pro Mark Magsayo in the amateurs, winning two of their matches and losing one.

Cataraja turned pro in July 2015 to a lot of fanfare immediately facing a foreign opponent in Ardi Tefa of Indonesia who had already 10 bouts at that time whom Cataraja stopped in the sixth round. Cataraja faced three more foreign opponents in his next three fights, one of them Mexican Antonio Rodriguez who was the only one who survived Cataraja's knockout power.

Cataraja put on the brakes of his boxing career in 2016 as he opted to finish his Criminology degree, no doubt also influenced by his law enforcer grandfather. He was fighting sparingly against Filipino toughies where he improved his record to 7 wins with 6 knockouts.

Having completed his studies, Cataraja, now vows to pursue boxing seriously and what stage was more appropriate for him than to exhibit his abilities in front of his dearmost grandfather, parents, relatives, friends and townsmates.

Tabuelan mayor Rex Gerona delivers a speech before Saturday's fisticuffs.

ABS-CBN anchors Peter Musngi (L) and Atty Ed Tolentino (R).

Thus ALA Promotions and ABS-CBN's 'Idol 3' with the full support of Tabuelan mayor Rex Gerona, was brought to Tabuelan Saturday night who had its first live boxing show ever showcasing their very own in the main event facing a foreign fighter in a 10-round super flyweight bout. And the more two thousand locals, mind you almost 10% of its entire population, came to fill, standing room only, the Tabuelan Astrodome.

Tabuelan locals watch their first ever live boxing show.

Never mind that the Indonesian Rohi was set up for the kill, having lost its last five bouts before facing Cataraja. After scoring five wins and a draw in his first six fights, Rohi ventured to foreign lands, to Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan and China, losing all his bouts. Facing the undefeated Cataraja, it seemed it would be too much for the young Indonesian.

Right after the opening bell, it was clear that the visiting Indonesian, whose punches were sparse and weak, was not in the same league as the local hero whose punches, coming in succession, were crisp and powerful . Later in the round Cataraja connected with an right uppercut-left cross combination to Rohi's head that sent the Indon to the seat of his pants for the first time. Cataraja rained Rohi with a barrage of punches to finish him off but Rohi somehow survived the round.

Cataraja stalks Rohi in the corner.

Cataraja continued to punish Rohi in the second round with body shots and straights to the head but the Indonesian held his ground with clam-like defense and even tagged Cataraja with a beautiful left looping counter to the head.

In the third round, Cataraja continued to pursue the retreating Rohi who was trying to see an opening for a counter but Cataraja unleashed a vicious left cross that landed squarely to Rohi's jaw that staggered the Indon backwards finally crushing to the canvas. Although Rohi got up before the count, he was so hurt and dazed to continue as Referee Romar Embodo waved off the contest at 2:44 of the round.

Referee Romar Embodo administers the count on the down Rohi as Cataraja looks on.

Cataraja is declared winner by TKO after stopping Rohi in the 3rd round.

Interviewed after the fight by ABS-CBN anchors Ed Tolentino and Peter Musngi, Cataraja said he wanted to finish Rohi in the very first round, “but he was durable and was able to survived my punches, so I took it easy and did not force the issue and I waited for the right opportunity,” Cataraja said who improved his undefeated record to eight wins with seven knockouts.

The Tabuelanons, and specifically grandfather Leoncio, rightly were very proud of their own son who performed exceptionally well in front of them but for Cataraja, 23, who wants to follow the footsteps of his idols Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire Jr. and aims to mix it up with the best fighters in the stacked super flyweight division, the journey has just begun.


In the main support bout, Virgel Vitor (13-1-0, 7KOs) of Cebu City defeated by unanimous decision veteran Gerpaul Valero (22-21-4, 16KOs) of Mandaue City in a tactical and dull fight in their 10-round super bantamweight fight. Valero scored a seventh round knockdown en route to winning by wide scores of 100-89, 98-91 and 97-92.

Christian Bacolod (9-0-0, 7KOs) added another W to his undefeated record when his opponent Mervin Lulu (5-3-2, 2KOs) refused to come out in the second round. Lulu's corner later told Philboxing that Lulu had a fever and could not continue to fight. There was confusion afterwards however as Lulu himself changed his excuse of not coming out to a stomach ache and then lack of preparation.

In the major upset of the evening, promising featherweight Jimmy Paypa (19-5-1, 7KOs), the former WBO Oriental 122-lb champion, was defeated by local journeyman Jhun Ryan Quimbo (7-17-2, 0KOs). Paypa, clearly out of shape and fought at 140-lbs, was waylaid by the taunting and crowd-showman Quimbo who for a change made the agreed weight for this fight.

Flyweight prospect Esneth Domingo (10-0-0, 6KOs) of Sultan Kudarat made short work of Ryan Makiputin (13-13-2, 4KOs) of Valencia City, Bukidnon sending Makiputin to the canvas twice in the first round en route to a first round stoppage victory.

Justin Darap (4-0-0, 2KOs) of Mandaue City defeated Elmer Liboon (2-9-1, 1KOs) by unanimous decision with scores of 60-54, 59-55 and 59-55.

In the curtain raiser, JR Villafuerte made a successful pro debut by defeating Tomas Rebusit (1-7-0, 1KO) of Murcia, Negros Occidental in their four-round scheduled super flyweight bout by third round TKO.

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