Philippines, 29 Feb 2024
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Boxing guru still slugging

Lito Mondejar has been involved in the boxing business for over half a century and now at 87, he’s still slugging it out. The fabled L&M Gym on Paquita Street, Sampaloc, was owned and operated by the late Ramon (Moy) Lainez and Mondejar (the initials L&M are taken from their names). That’s where Manny Pacquiao worked out as a teenager. It’s also where other world champions like Luisito Espinosa, Morris East and Rolando Pascua honed their skills. In 2009, Pacquiao bought the gym, tore down the facility and built the MP Tower on the same hallowed grounds.

Mondejar was a boxing promoter, matchmaker, manager, trainer and cornerman all rolled into one. He was in Pacquiao’s corner for some of his most memorable fights, including the come-from-behind knockout over Chatchai Sasakul to wrest the WBC flyweight crown in the outskirts of Bangkok in 1998.

Today, Mondejar lives in his farm in Kidapawan and occasionally visits Pacquiao in General Santos City which is a two-hour drive away. Boxing remains a major part of his life and it’s what keeps him kicking. He’s assembled a group of 15 kids whose ages range from 12 to 15 and they’re training under his care. Once any of the boys start showing signs of real potential, Mondejar plans to arrange professional training with Pacquiao.

One of Mondejar’s favorite Pacquiao stories was when he stayed in the US with him for two months while preparing for the fight against Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003. “Sinamahan ko si Manny sa Los Angeles,” recalls Mondejar. “First big fight ni Manny against a big name kaya tutok kaming lahat.” Pacquiao stopped Barrera in the 11th round in San Antonio, Texas. Mondejar was present in nearly all of Pacquiao’s fights in the US against Juan Manuel Marquez, Oscar de la Hoya and Erik Morales. He missed Pacquiao’s later bouts as his age has restricted travelling.

Mondejar, who has five children and more than 15 grandchildren (he’s lost count), says Pacquiao’s revival of “Blow By Blow” on OneSports TV will go a long way in discovering fighters to follow in his footsteps. Mondejar and promoter Rod Nazario were the founders of the first iteration of “Blow By Blow” that started in 1994. The second iteration came in 2015 with Mondejar teaming with former North Cotabato Gov. Manny Pinol and boxing manager Gerry Garcia to produce the show. “Dami na namin pinagdaanan sa ‘Blow By Blow,’” he recounts. “Kasama si Tony Tuviera tapos Bobong Velez at Vic del Rosario. Ngayon, si Manny naman ang nagbuhay muli.” Mondejar’s son Bobby is a holdover from the first iteration as a ring announcer.

“Nawala na mga kasama ko, sina Moy, Rod at Rudy Salud,” says Mondejar. “Ako na lang ang natitira at malaking bagay na ‘di ako nagsigarilyo sa buong buhay ko.” Mondejar’s wife passed in 1995 and he never remarried. He couldn’t be happier to witness Pacquiao’s revival of “Blow By Blow” as one of its founders.

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

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