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List of Articles by Joaquin Henson

What drives Gibbons

By Joaquin Henson
02 Oct 2018

OAKLAND. Las Vegas-based international boxing matchmaker Sean Gibbons said the other day what motivates him to do his job is the gratification of turning lives around. He was once a fighter himself, a lightheavyweight who compiled a 14-7-3 record, with 9 KOs, from 1986 to 1996. One of his opponents was celebrity Mickey Rourke whom he held to a majority draw in 1994.

Gibbons, 52, relocated from Oklahoma City, where he met and married his university schoolmate Valerie, to Las Vegas in 1997. He initially worked for Bob Arum at Top Rank then branched out as an independent matchmaker. Gibbons pays particular attention to less privileged fighters whom he wants to give a chance to improve their lives.

A prime example of a fighter whose career was guided by Gibbons is former WBO/IBF featherweight champion Orlando Salido of Ciudad Obregon, Sonora. Salido, 39, recently won a seat in the Mexican State Legislature. With his ring earnings, Salido invested in real estate and now owns an apartment building and several houses. “I think Salido must have at least $1 Million in the bank,” said Gibbons. “He’s moved to Phoenix and his children are enjoying the benefit of a good US education.” IBF superflyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas is another Gibbons protégé.

“It feels good when you help people improve their lives,” said Gibbons. “What Salido has done is something that will leave a legacy to his name. It’s like what Sen. Manny Pacquiao has accomplished. The name Pacquiao will forever be remembered for the honor that Sen. Manny gave to the Philippines.” Fighters under Gibbons’ wing include Cesar Juarez, Jose Uzcategui and Moruti Mthalane. He’s now negotiating to stage a fight between Ancajas’ stablemate Mark Anthony Barriga and Mexico’s Carlos Licona for the vacant IBF minimumweight champinship in November or December.

Pacquiao has a special place in Gibbons’ heart. Gibbons was in Tokyo when Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. recently met up during the Urban Japan electronic music festival. Gibbons is currently working with Pacquiao associates Joe Ramos and lawyer Tom Falgui of General Santos City in finalizing the Senator’s next bout, likely on Jan. 19 in Las Vegas.

Gibbons is well-known and well-loved in boxing circles. His younger son Brendan, who is a ramp model and could be a movie actor, is also popular in the fight world, inheriting his father’s passion for the sport and sincerity in dealing with boxing figures. As an independent matchmaker, Gibbons has links with every major boxing promoter all over the world. A US Navy commodore’s son, Gibbons grew up in several military bases and fell in love with boxing at an early age. One of five children, he’s the only one in the family to get involved in the fight game.

Gibbons said it’s unlikely that Ancajas and Mexican Alejandro Santiago will ever meet again in the ring. Last Friday, Ancajas retained his IBF crown on a split 12-round draw with Santiago at the Oracle Arena here. “No question, Jerwin won that fight,” said Gibbons. “He dictated the tempo while Santiago landed some big shots occasionally. Santiago’s the type of fighter who can make you look bad. He’ll try to steal rounds in the last few seconds. As a challenger, he never went after Jerwin. It was like Santiago was more focused on making Jerwin look bad than winning the title. As a challenger, he didn’t do enough to take the crown away from Jerwin.”


One of Ancajas’ cornermen for the Santiago fight was half-Filipino cutman Todd Makelim, a former Australian flyweight and bantamweight titlist. Makelim, 49, was born in San Francisco to an American father and a Filipina mother. His Filipino grandfather Alejandro Taban was a POW for three years during World War II. Makelim’s parents split up when he was four and his mother later remarried an Australian Navyman. Makelim and two brothers moved to Australia with their mother and step-father. As a fighter, Makelim fought and was stopped by Pacquiao in three rounds in Kidapawan in 1999.

In 2002, a year after he retired from boxing, Makelim collapsed on the pitch playing touch football and was rushed to the hospital where he underwent open heart bypass surgery to circumvent five blocked arteries. “My father died of a heart attack at 32 and was a heavy smoker and drinker,” he said. “I was close to 33 when I had my bypass. I was a fighter for seven years so when I retired, I let go, enjoyed life and did things I never did when I was a disciplined athlete. My last fight was against Jake Matlala in South Africa and I lost on a fourth round knockout. It was for the WBU lightflyweight title. At least, once in my career, I fought for the world title. During the fight, I couldn’t breathe and thought I was getting a heart attack. I don’t know if it was because of South Africa’s altitude but I quit in the fourth round because I was short of breath.”

In 2004, Makelim underwent another operation, this time to address a blockage in his carotid artery. A few months ago, he was back in the hospital for a heart valve replacement using cow skin. Makelim was discharged six days after surgery. “My heart is good for another 15 years,” he said. “If doctors had used something mechanical to replace my valve, I would be a candidate for another open heart surgery in about 20 years and I don’t think I’d be able to take it at 70. With the cow skin procedure, I would just undergo keyhole surgery if there is a need to redo.”

Makelim, who has two daughters Rain, 14 and Bonnie Lee, 5, with wife Shelley, was as good as new in Ancajas’ corner last Friday. After the fight, he took time off to visit relatives in San Francisco before flying back to Sydney. “My wife is Australian who understands and knows to speak a little Filipino because of all the Filipino boxers who lived with us when they came for fights in Australia,” he said.

Photo: Matchmaker Sean Gibbons (L) with Manny Pacquiao (R) and Jerwin Ancajas.

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