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Uniting nations through boxing


PhilBoxing.com





KUALA LUMPUR. Newly-crowned WBA welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao recently made history by assembling the first boxing card ever to feature fighters from 13 different countries on the same bill.


“It’s about building relationships,” he said. “I’ve always dreamed of building a professional boxing base in Asia. I’m grateful to the Malaysian people and Malaysian government for giving me the opportunity to stage this boxing card. This is just the start of bigger things to come. I’m thinking of establishing a boxing academy in Malaysia and I will donate the two rings and other facilities we brought in for our recent event.” Pacquiao has previously promoted boxing events in China and Macau.

Never in the history of boxing has there been as many countries represented. Pacquiao brought in fighters from four continents to participate in Malaysia’s first boxing spectacle since Muhammad Ali outpointed Joe Bugner at the Merdeka Stadium in 1975. It wasn’t easy making the event happen. Originally, there were 12 fights in the card. The final list had 11 with 98 scheduled rounds. Contacting the fighters from 13 countries was a challenge but Pacquiao’s associates Michael Koncz and Joe Ramos got the job done with solid support from Las Vegas-based international matchmaker Sean Gibbons and Top Rank chief operating officer Brad Jacobs.

Liza Elorde, who handled the logistical and physical arrangements of the weigh-in and the fight card last weekend, said the initial venue was the open-air stadium used at the Southeast Asian Games last year. But Lucas Matthysse’s camp insisted on an indoor, air-conditioned venue so he wouldn’t be subjected to unfamiliar weather conditions. Both camps eventually approved the use of the Axiata Arena.

Pacquiao said in his early years as a fighter, the crowd that came out to watch was made up of strictly boxing fans. But today, half the audience is composed of government officials, many of whom he works with.

For the Matthysse fight, President Duterte flew in from Davao City the night before and witnessed the bout at the Axiata Arena with Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahatir Bin Mohamad. Among the Philippine government officials at ringside were former Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Presidential assistant Secretary Bong Go, Senate President Tito Sotto, Rep. Toby Tiangco of Navotas, Rep. and POC chairman Abraham Tolentino of Cavite, Cong. Rachel (Cutie) del Mar of Cebu, Cong. Alfredo Garbin of Legazpi, Cong. Bingbong Crisologo of Quezon City, Cong. Lito Atienza of Manila, Cong. Ruel Pacquiao of General Santos City, Cong. Mikee Romero, Cong. Eric Pineda, Solicitor General Jose Calida, Mayor Bing Leonardina of Bacolod and PAGCOR president Atty. Alfredo Lim.

It was the first time a Philippine Chief Executive went overseas to witness a Filipino professional fighter in action. But in the Philippines, at least two Presidents have attended fights in the venue. In 1975, President Marcos was at the Araneta Coliseum to watch the Thrilla In Manila between Ali and Joe Frazier. In 1998, President Ramos was at the Cuneta Astrodome for WBC superflyweight champion Gerry Penalosa’s defense against Mexico’s Joel Luna Zarate. The fight ended in a second round technical draw with Penalosa retaining the title. President Ramos entered the ring to congratulate Penalosa and was accompanied by a horde of security and supporters, causing the canvas to collapse. The embarrassment was shown on live TV in Mexico.

The 13 countries represented in last Sunday’s card were the Philippines, Argentina, Mexico, China, Venezuela, Pakistan, South Africa, Malaysia, Australia, Japan, Thailand, India and Indonesia. It was a virtual United Nations or mini-Olympics. In 1963, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles hosted a card called the Cavalcade of Champions where fighters from four countries battled with three world titles at stake. Roberto Cruz of the Philippines knocked out Mexico’s Battling Torres in one round to win the vacant WBA junior welterweight crown in one of the three world championship bouts. The Axiata Arena card dwarfed the Cavalcade of Champions in terms of global reach.

Before the Pacquiao-Matthysse fight, the Philippine National Anthem was sung by nine General Santos City Christian pastors and featured performer Ali Forbes. Marcelito Pomoy, the grand prize winner of the second season of “Pilipinas Got Talent,” was supposed to be the lead vocalist but Forbes took his place.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.


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