BONSUBRE: CATCHING UP WITH FORMER PACQUIAO FOE SERIKZHAN YESHMAGAMBETOV
By Rene Bonsubre, Jr.
22 Dec 2017
JAIPUR, INDIA – Travelling from Cebu, Philippines to Jaipur, India took almost twenty-four hours. My mind was in a haze when I checked in our hotel. But my brain got a jolt when I saw the name of one of the hotel guests.
Serikzhan Yeshmagambetov from Kazakhstan, who fought Manny Pacquiao way back in 2003 at the Luneta. It was a fight card that was open to the public, and I was there, at that time just another fight fan. I knew right away I had to talk to him about that fight.
Yeshmagambetov, now 45 years old, still looked fit enough to go a few rounds. When I shook his hand I felt the strong grip and hard bones shaped by his profession.
He is now a boxing judge and is here in India as one of the three judges for the WBO Asia Pacific super middleweight title bout between defending champ and hometown favorite Vijender Singh and Ernest Amuzu of Ghana.
Yeshmagambetov speaks a little English and my Russian is totally non-existent. He said his German is better than his English but thanks to the miracle of Google translate, we managed to have a very interesting conversation.
“I have been a boxing judge for ten years now.” He said, “Mostly in Kazakhstan, Russia and Uzbekistan.”
Boxrec shows that he retired in 2008 with a record of 20-12-1, 10KO's. He also works as a trainer and he showed me a video of his training sessions with little kids in his home country as well as with young adults.
But he is remembered for that battle against Manny Pacquiao in a historic park in Manila.
“People in Russia even made a film about me and that fight.” He laughed, “They asked me to be guest on television. I have always wondered why people still ask me about a fight that I lost.”
“I know if I won, things would have been different for me.” He paused for a few seconds before saying this, thinking about what could have been.
Pacquiao at that point in time was the IBF junior featherweight champion. He had three defenses tucked under his belt (2W-1D) and there were already rumors of a move to the featherweight ranks. The fight against Yeshmagambetov was a non-title contest.
“I had trouble going down in weight. I felt really weak,” Yeshmagambetov recalled, “Then after the weigh-in, I couldn’t eat, I didn’t like the food in your country.”
Yeshmagambetov laughed when he made the remark about the food. It was understandable. The cuisine from his part of the world is different from ours. He is also tall for someone at the range of 122 to 126 lbs.
Pacquiao was his usual fast and furious self right from the opening bell. But a sharp right uppercut from Yeshmagambetov dropped Pacquiao in the fourth round.
Pacquiao got up, shook the effects of the knockdown and in the fifth, decked Yeshmagambetov twice, the first was courtesy of his lightning straight left.
Referee Silvestre “Ver” Abainza called a halt to the bout after the second knockdown. I still remember being drowned by the hysterical crowd after Pacquiao’s victory.
Pacquiao would go on and accomplish greater things. In fact eight months after beating Yeshmagambetov, he would have a career defining moment when he upset the more popular Marco Antonio Barrera at the Alamodome in Texas by TKO in the 11th round.
The Pacman’s legend would grow and along the way, he became the only boxer to win eight division world titles.
Yeshmagambetov’s right hand could have altered the course of boxing history.
But Yeshmagambetov would lose six of his last nine fights before hanging up his gloves. He never got a world title shot but his love for boxing continued. I could tell by his demeanor that he is content and happy with his new career as an international boxing judge.
If you think about it, how many people on this planet can claim they knocked down the great Manny Pacquiao?
Photo – Serikzhan Yeshmagambetov (right) with the writer.
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