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List of Articles by Rico Navarro



Bleacher Talk: Dreams come true: ALA Generations

By Rico Navarro
PhilBoxing.com
21 Jul 2013



When Merlito “Tiger’ Sabillo knocked out Jorle Estrada to defend his WBO minimumweight world title last Saturday in the main event of Pinoy Pride 21, it dawned upon us that this was like a dream come true for Cebu Boxing when its “rebirth” was kicked off in the early 90s. This was like a de ja vu of a dream we had as a boxing fan then, when we asked if we would ever produce more world champions after Bernabe Villacampo, Frank Cedeño, Dodie “Boy” Peñalosa and of course, the great Gabriel “Flash” Elorde. We also wondered if we would have more Asia/Pacific level regional champs and a Las Vegas-type atmosphere for Cebu Boxing. Fast forward to today and the dream has truly come true. From the rattan chairs and the heat of the Cebu Coliseum, we now find ourselves watching boxing at posh resorts and venues like the Solaire Resort and Casino and the Waterfront Hotel and Casino; and at sports stadiums like the MOA Arena and the Hoops Dome. We also have TV coverage like never before with the Pinoy Pride series, easily the top boxing spectacle on TV these days.

And where did it all start? When the ALA Boxing Gym went into professional boxing in the 90’s, they stirred up a lot of interest with the likes of Edito “ALA” Villamor, Noel Tuñacao, Joma Gamboa, the late Jun Gorres, Ramy Dumpa and a host of others including Gerry Peñalosa later. This group was the first generation of ALA boxers who donned the black ALA trunks (always above the knees) and who were touted to make it big in the international boxing scene. From this set, only Gerry made it all the way to the top when he won world titles at the superflyweight and bantamweight divisions, but with another manager/promoter while ALA was lying low. Then for awhile, the ALA phenomenon disappeared in the late 90s with Gamboa, Tuñacao and Peñalosa going their own ways. Somewhere in between, the Golden Boys of Malcolm Tuñacao, Randy Suico and Rev Santillan rose with Malcolm winning a world title, and Suico and Santillan dominating the Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation scene. Although they weren’t formally ALA Boys, the ALA footprints could be found in their careers even if ALA had “disappeared” from pro boxing during this period.
In a case of “you can’t keep your passion down forever,” ALA Boxing was back in 2000 with the launch of the next generation of ALA Boys in Rodel Mayol, Wyndel Janiola, Dindo Castañares and the comebacking Jun Gorres. Later came world title contenders Z Gorres, Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista, AJ “Bazooka” Banal and Michael Domingo. The first world title of this “generation” came courtesy of Donnie “Ahas” Nietes when he won the WBO minimumweight world championship and later the WBO light flyweight title. Ironically, this was ALA’s first real world title as a manager/promoter. He was credited to have helped in the careers of Gerry Peñalosa and Malcolm Tuñacao but the Nietes world titles were ALA-bred, born and trained. To-date, Nietes remains to be one of four current Pinoy world champs, along with Sabillo, Johnriel Casimero (IBF light flyweight) and Edren Dapudong (IBO superflyweight).

Today? With ALA Boxing adding ALA Promotions to its portfolio, the market has opened tremendously. ALA Promotions fight cards have reached Davao, Bohol, Maasin, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod and Iloilo aside from Cebu and Manila. They even had a visit to Dubai awhile back. They have also sent boxers to places like South Africa, Singapore and Macau aside from the regulars Japan, Mexico and the U.S. Talks are now moving towards a first ever ALA Promotions card in San Diego, USA. All this is backed up by a new 10-year contract penned between ALA Promotions and TV giant ABS-CBN Sports which now has the UAAP, Azkals games and the Pinoy Pride series as its top draws.

We now have a world champion from the latest generation of boxers in Sabillo, a one-time street fighter who once earned a living by winning fights in the streets of Bacolod. Under the radar, he has had to live in the shadows of Nietes, Boom Boom and Banal. Always made to fight as an undercard boxer, he quietly plied his trade, winning fights consistently, even away from the Pinoy Pride productions. No TV, no problem. He even had the tough task of having to win the world championship away from home in Colombia where he scored a knockout win over the hometown bet.

It seemed only proper that Sabillo would take over the throne that once belonged to Nietes, showing that the next generation of boxers are in place to come in when they’re called on to step up to the plate. Slowly but surely, waiting on the wings are the likes of Milan “El Metodico” Melindo who fights for the world title on Saturday. Also there are Genesis “Azukal” Servania, “King” Arthur Villanueva, and Jason “El Niño” Pagara, all young and raring to go. Further down the line, there are “Prince” Albert Pagara, Mark “Magnifico” Magsayo and Vic “Vicious” Saludar.

What was once a dream is now a reality indeed. Feel old? I surely do, but don’t mind it at all. It’s all worth it. May Cebu Boxing continue to be blessed with more generations of ALA boxers and more world championships.


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