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List of Articles by Joaquin Henson



Together again

By Joaquin Henson
PhilBoxing.com
01 Oct 2017



BEIJING. Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Ever Bilena CEO Dioceldo Sy, who owns the Blackwater franchise in the PBA, go back a long way. They were introduced to each other in 1997 and developed a special friendship but hadn’t reconnected for 15 years until in 2013, the long-lost buddies crossed paths during the FIBA Asia Cup semifinal game between the Philippines and South Korea at the MOA Arena.

Today, Pacquiao and Sy are close together again. They recently shook hands to form a partnership that will take the lead in promoting professional boxing in China and other parts of Asia. Pacquiao was approached by the Chinese government to assist in pushing the sport in the Mainland and thought of joining forces with Sy in the effort. Last Friday, Pacquiao’s first co-promotion with Dancing Sports through the Professional Boxing Commission of China got off to an auspicious start at the Heyuan Royal Garden Hotel grounds here. The card featured nine bouts in the first leg of the Belt and Road World Boxing Champion Tour. The plan is to produce four or five boxing shows a year in the Mainland. Sy flew in to witness the proceedings.

It was 20 years ago when Sy’s friend Raul Panlilio, who now lives in the Gold Coast in Australia, introduced him to Pacquiao. “Raul used to manage his mother Fe’s jewelry business and we met at the Philippine Plaza fitness center back in the early 1990s,” said Sy. “Raul liked to box and trained with boxer Max Forrosuelo at the L&M Gym in Sampaloc where he met Manny. At the time, I had a team in the PBL, Blu Detergent, and my star player was the newly-arrived Asi Taulava. I asked Raul if he knew a boxer who could run with Asi and he suggested Manny.”
****

Sy arranged for Pacquiao to run laps around the Cultural Center complex with Taulava so the Fil-Tongan could keep pace. He paid Pacquiao P200 an hour. “I would fetch Manny at the Dona Josefa Apartments on Osmena where he stayed to bring him to Cultural Center,” said Sy. “Once, I picked him up in an Expedition and Manny wondered when he could ever afford to buy an Expedition. Now, his security back-up rides in an Expedition.”

It was Sy who gave Pacquiao his first major endorsement deal. “I invited Manny to a Korean barbecue place in Malate then I gave him a check for P200,000 to endorse Shark energy drink which I distributed then,” said Sy. “Manny couldn’t believe it at first when he held the check with his hands shaking. Unfortunately, Shark’s Thai principals later rejected my proposal for Manny to be an endorser. Just the same, I told Manny to keep the money and got him to pose for a poster for Raul’s Crystal Spring water line instead.”

As their relationship grew closer, Sy offered to buy out Pacquiao’s contract for P1 Million in 1998. Pacquiao had advances of P800,000 with his manager and Sy said he would settle the debt. The deal, however, never pushed through. Sy received a threatening phone call from an unidentified person to stay away from Pacquiao.
****

“My father told me to back off since I didn’t really know the people involved in boxing,” he said. “We had our business to attend to and we didn’t need the distraction.” So Sy and Pacquiao went their separate ways. Sy became an even more successful businessman with Ever Bilena while Pacquiao blossomed into a people’s champion in sports and politics.

“I’ve followed Manny’s career and often thought how it could’ve been if my deal pushed through in 1998,” said Sy. “Through the years, I’ve remained his loyal fan. I’ve gone to Las Vegas and Macau to cheer for him. If I don’t go to the actual venue, I get a table at Makati Shangi-La and watch his fights on a giant screen with friends. It was by accident that we bumped into each other during the Gilas game against South Korea in 2013 and we exchanged phone numbers. It’s an honor that now, we’re partners in promoting a sport we both love. We’ll be exploring options not only in China but in other countries, too. This will be his legacy to the sport.”

During his brief visit here, Sy kept his eyes open, particularly in observing how to relate with Chinese government, business and sports officials. Sy made his first trip to the Mainland to do business in Shanghai in 1994 and often visits Chinese cosmetics suppliers in different cities to cement relations. His track record of success in business is what he brings to the table in partnering with Pacquiao in this latest venture to promote boxing in China.


Sen. Manny Pacquiao with (from left) PBCom Caloocan branch manager Sherwin Ng, Philboxing contributor and translator Peter Tsai, Ever Bilena CEO Dioceldo Sy and writer "The Dean" Joaquin (Quinito) Henson in Beijing.



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