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Why not look for another Espinosa or Peñalosa?


PhilBoxing.com




People follow trends. Be it in fashion, music or film. Searching for the next Manny Pacquiao has become not just a catchword but an obsession among promoters, boxers and fans. Power punchers draw crowds. That was why the early version of Pacquiao became a mainstay on the defunct boxing show “Blow by Blow”. Boxers want to be like him and charge forward with arms flailing only to be knocked out by a well timed counter.

Not all of them can be reconstructed into what Pacquiao is today. The majority will remain reckless brawlers.

But there is another type of boxer we should be looking for. Those who are advocates of the hit but don’t get hit school of boxing. Boxers, who once they gain experience, can understand the value of ring generalship;the nuances of defense, mobility and counterpunching. Boxers in the mould of Luisito Espinosa and Gerry Peñalosa.

These two were the vanguard of Philippine boxing a decade before Pacquiao’s remarkable rise to superstardom.

Scouting for boxers with Espinosa’s length will be difficult in this vertically challenged but basketball crazy country. Espinosa’s height and reach gave him a great advantage as a bantamweight and even when he moved up to featherweight.

But it was his versatility that was his greatest asset. He chose to get in close against the likes of Alejandro Gonzales and Kennedy McKinney and boxed beautifully against the likes of Manuel Medina and Cesar Soto. He was good enough for two successful defenses at bantamweight and seven title successful defenses at featherweight.

Peñalosa is considered the best this region has produced in terms of counterpunching. He is also one of the smartest. It is very unfortunate that he spent his best years away from the bright lights of Las Vegas. For the most part of his career, foreign boxing writers and casual fans have underappreciated his mastery of the sweet science. He also had the misfortune of being at the losing end of many hometown decisions.

But once you look closer even at his losing efforts against Daniel Ponce de Leon and Juan Manuel Lopez, you will appreciate the encyclopedia of boxing knowledge inside his brain. He knows how to survive bigger and stronger punchers.

Both Espinosa and Peñalosa won two world titles in two different weight divisions in two separate decades. Peñalosa is still active and competitive. This underscores the value of defense and ring smarts in determining a fighter’s longevity.

Z “The Dream” Gorres was on his way to following their footsteps. He went the distance against the likes of Fernando Montiel and Vic Darchinyan. He may not have produced a win but the experience made him stronger and better. Another world title shot was imminent but fate had other plans.

Boxing has become trendy since Pacquiao went on a winning streak against future Hall of Famers. It will be interesting to see if just how many of these Pacquiao fans will continue to be boxing fans when he retires.

Big punchers are a dime a dozen in this archipelago. Finding someone whose instinct is to box and not to brawl will be harder. It also takes talent to be able to spot talent.

Most defense oriented boxers get mislabelled as “lacking in courage” during their early years by the untrained eye. Nurturing and sharpening such a boxer will be a bigger challenge. Thinking fighters also need smart trainers during their formative years.

But it all starts with knowing where to look and what to look for.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Rene Bonsubre, Jr..


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