AJ Banal and Marvin Mabait lend hand to Malcolm Tunacao’s camp in Kobe, Japan
By Rich Mazon
Fri, 01 Mar 2013
L-R: Mabait, Tunacao and Banal in Japan.
Malcolm “Eagle Eye” Tunacao is currently in the heat of training for his April 8th title fight in Kobe, Japan. The former world champ from Mandaue City, Cebu will be facing Japan’s own, Shinsuke Yamanaka for the latter’s WBC bantamweight belt in the capital of “The Land of The Rising Sun.”
And there to lend him a hand, literally, are two countrymen and colleagues of him in the ring, former title contender, A.J. “Bazooka” Banal and young prospect, Marvin Mabait.
The two are serving as sparring partners for the 35 year old Tunacao, who will be fighting a career defining fight against Yamanaka. Tunacao expressed delight in having his two “kababayans” (countrymen) provide help in the most crucial part of training as a boxer, sparring and simulating a fight against a scheduled opponent. It was a job that both Banal and Mabait are performing very well for Tunacao.
“Masaya ako kasi si Mabait at Banal mga magaling, malaking tulong po sila sa akin. Kahapon nagsparring kami ng 3 rounds ni Banal, 3 rounds ni Mabait.” (I am happy because Mabait and Banal are both good, they help me a lot. I sparred 3 rounds with Banal and 3 rounds with Mabait yesterday.) Tunacao told Philboxing.com when this writer checked on his current state of training.
Tunacao has already logged in twenty rounds of sparring prior to his “kababayans” arrival, practicing with former WBC Bantamweight and Featherweight champ, Hozumi Hasegawa.
Tunacao has known Banal when he was still with the ALA gym and stable and Mabait was referred to him by fighters and coaches that he knew back home.
“Si AJ, pareho kami galing din sa ALA at sa ALA din ako lumaki. Si Marvin naman ngayon lang kami nagkita pero maraming nagsasabi sa akin pag kumuha ako ng partner si Marvin daw dapat, kaya ayun.”
(AJ and I came from ALA, I also grew up with ALA and Marvin, and I just met. But a lot of people have been telling me that if I should pick a sparring partner, I should pick him, so I did.) said Tunacao.
“Si Marvin pareho talaga ng galaw ni Yamanaka at si Banal ang galing din.” (Marvin has the same moves of Yamanaka and Banal is also good.) Tunacao described of his spar mates.
“Magaling si Marvin at mabait na bata.” (Marvin is good and he is a nice kid.) Tunacao added of his young spar mate.
Mabait is a 25 year old super bantamweight from Zamboanga City. He holds a professional record of 17-1-2 (11 KOs) and like Yamanaka, a southpaw.
“Masaya kasi ako ang napili niyang ka-sparing. Madami syang pinilian at ako ang napili niya kasi magka pareha daw kami ng style ni Yamanaka.”
(I am delighted that he chose me as a sparring partner. He looked at a lot of boxers and he chose me because of my similarities with Yamanaka.)
Mabait sparred another six rounds today with Tunacao at the Shensei Boxing Gym in Kobe and is confident of Tunacao’s chances against Yamanaka, whom he has sparred with in the past. He supports his kababayan in the pursuit of his second world title.
“Masaya po at nandito ako kasi gusto ko po mag two time champion si Malcolm.” (I am happy that I am here, I want Malcolm to be a two time champion.) expressed Mabait.
Tunacao not only appreciates his new spar mates, but also enjoys the company that they provide during his camp.
“Palagi kami nagbibiruan dito.” (We have fun and joke with one another.) recounted Tunacao.
“Masaya din sila, sabi nila sa akin mabait daw ang manager ko at mga tao dito sa gym namin.”
(They are happy to be here and they told me that my manager and people here in the gym are nice.)
But beyond the joking and the friendly banter amongst the three, Tunacao is focused at the task at hand, a dream of his for twelve years now.
“Importante talaga ito sir, lahat ng boxers ito ang pinapangarap. Lalo na ako, grabe ang tagal nag antay kaya eto na.”
(This is very important sir. This is what all boxers dream of. Especially in my part, I waited so long for this opportunity, and here it is.) stated Tunacao.
Besides his two fellow Filipino boxers, Tunacao is also being aided in camp by his childhood friend, trainer and former boxer himself, Eriberto Gejon and boxing trainer Carmelo Penalosa, brothers of Filipino ring legends, Dodie Boy and Gerry.
It is clear that the Filipino spirit of “Bayanihan” or camaraderie is also present in boxing as evidenced in Malcolm’s Tunacao camp in Kobe, Japan.
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