Philippines, 02 Mar 2021
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ALAs, a Breath of Fresh Tropical Air for World Boxing
Straight from the Island of Cebu (Part 3 of 3)

After the training session concluded, Mr. Aldeguer invited me to dinner at an exclusive sports club across the street from my hotel where the Pacman would often be seen hooping it up. I guess it would have been overkill to pull out the ALAmobile for a ten second drive so I looked both ways and crossed. It was at dinner that I got to chat again with the ever smiling Sammy Gello-ani, another amiable boxing figure who is to be credited with much of the limelight Philippine Boxing has been receiving as of late; but that’s a story all on its own.

At dinner, Mr. Aldeguer graciously placed his arm on my shoulder and showed me around the palm tree lined dining area. Filipinos are well known for their hospitality and Cebuanos even more so. Just ask Freddie Roach and Erik Morales. This dinner played to the stereotype that when a Filipino invites you to dinner, you will be extremely well fed. Then fed some more. While I feasted alongside two of his boxers, amateur standouts Jassie Salva and James Bacon, Mr. Aldeguer and Mr. Gello-ani conducted a meeting with some other influential boxing figures from another Asian Country.

An astute business man and street smart kid, I am always attentive and keenly observant. But it was probably at dinner, through my new friends, where I learned the most about Mr. Aldeguer. I sat and listened to Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista’s roommates Jassie and John talk about their father figure who is responsible for putting Jassie through college and for keeping John off the mean streets of the inner city barrios. They spoke about a dedicated and selfless man who would take in those less fortunate and give them a home in his gym. Whether they were championship caliber fighters or not did not matter to Mr. Aldeguer. Every kid who walked into the gym was given a positive chance by a man who cared. This meant mountains to the fifty or so wannabe pugs, aged five to thirty-five, who would congregate around the gym every afternoon. Many city recreation gyms in the U.S. attempt do this albeit with government funding. The philanthropic Mr. Aldeguer does it out of his own pocket and most importantly out of love.

The words they most often used to refer to “Sir Aldeguer” was “sobrang bait (super nice)” and “second father.” The boxers referred to Mr. Aldeguer as a foster father to hundreds of underprivileged children who walked through his compound’s blue gates. But just as any good father, “Sir” also practiced tough love. As compassionate as he was to the boys outside of the gym, inside the ropes he was a little different. As per the boxers, he was still compassionate; but also as per the boxers, he busted your ass in training. The next most frequent word they used to describe “Sir” was “perfectionist.” I guess that is what you can attribute his business success and his boxers’ success to. He demands hard work and dedication, strong will and determination, heart and courage, and expects the same amount of passion from his wards as he gives to them. Mr. Aldeguer not only strives for the best but for the attainment of perfection.

As I got to know the man, through both first hand observation and narratives, I learned why everyone called him “Sir Aldeguer.” It’s not just because of the respectful Filipino culture, where everybody your senior is referred to “Sir or ma’am” but because of the respect he commands. The respect he commands is not that gained through money, words or threats, but just by being himself. And that’s the best type one can hope to achieve. Yes, he often yelled at the gym, but he certainly didn’t rule the gym by intimidation but rather though warmth and respect. And it seems to have rubbed off on his wards for ALA gym is full of camaraderie and class, as was most evident at the World Cup. Following their leader’s lead, the boxers are selfless and embrace the team concept. They carry much on their shoulders and hold themselves accordingly. They do this not just for themselves but for the team, the boxing stable, and for Sir Aldeguer.

As a martial artist, Muay Thai fighter, MMA amateur, USA amateur boxer, professional fighter, and fight fan, I have been to A LOT of gyms all of over the world. I have literally been to gyms where ferocious tigers roamed, gyms with man made rivers, gyms on the river, gyms on mountain tops, and gyms on the beach. I have seen strange things that one would never find in they gyms of Las Vegas, New York City, or even Philly combined. I have met a lot of gym owners, managers, promoters, fighters, and the people they associate with. Many were genuinely good hearted, many more were snakes, and definitely all were characters. Usually nothing surprises me, but I am delighted to say that I was surprised on this trip. It was a great experience visiting Cebu. So much so that it definitely will not be my last time. That is because I experienced a breath of fresh air here on this island. This fresh breath is that of a boxing manager, gym owner, trainer, and father figure who genuinely cares about his boxers and the state of boxing. This fresh breath of tropical air is Mr. Antonio L. Aldeguer. I hope he holds punch mitts for me when I come back.

Click here for Part I.
Click here for Part II.

About the Author:

JV Tuazon.

Dr. Josef Vincent (J.V.) Tuazon obtained his Doctorate Degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in the field of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation specializing in Sports Rehab. He is a 3x NJ Golden Gloves Boxing Champion, amateur MMA Champion, professional boxer and business man with U.S. national amateur boxing experience, extensive Muay Thai schooling in Thailand, and a black belt in the martial arts. He boxed for the National Golden Gloves Championships in 2005 and was the NJ Team Physical Therapist and Coaching Assistant in 2006. Although he has contributed photos to Philboxing in the past, this is his first foray into boxing journalism.

Link to video of JV's 2nd and most recent pro fight. Nov. 10, 2006

Click here to view a list of other articles written by J.V. Tuazon, DPT aka 'The Fight Doc'.

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