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Jessebelle Pagaduan and Carleans Rivas: Women Power and Pinay Power exemplified

Two boxers fought like hardened warriors in the nation’s capital last Saturday night. They poured their hearts out with every punch that they threw at each other. But, they are not the brawny and muscular men that you are accustomed seeing atop a boxing ring. They are women gladiators who are fighting for the first ever national female minimum weight title.

Don’t let their looks and size fool you. Carleans Rivas and Jessebelle Pagaduan are girls that you want to be friends with and not annoy. Rivas, 22, and Pagaduan, 28, are professional boxers who can spring into warrior-mode whenever necessary. And last night, they displayed that athleticism and tenacity against each other with hopes of attaining that national crown.

As a teenager, Pagaduan, who grew up in the mountains of Baguio City, was into combat sports such as Muay Thai and kickboxing instead of Britney Spears and N’Sync. She practiced both disciplines as a youth and only took a breather from it to pursue a degree in Veterinary Medicine.

“I was a former Muay Thai and kickboxer when I was 18. But I decided to stop when I was 22 to finish my degree. After 5 years, nung natapos ako, bumalik ako sa paglalaro nung 27 na ako, pero boxing na (After 5 years, when I got done with school, I went back into fighting, that was when I was 27 but it was boxing this time)," narrates Pagaduan.

Pagaduan did not have a hard time switching to the Sweet Science and also in getting her family’s approval that were surprisingly supportive of her decision to pursue boxing.

“Nagustuhan ko ang boxing, nasa puso at dugo ko kasi ang sports at saka suportado ako ng tatay at mga kapatid ko, mula noon hanggang ngayong matanda na ako,” she laughingly stated.
(I love boxing, because sports is in my blood and heart and my father and other siblings has shown me support in the past and present, even now that I am a little older.)

Asked if anyone opposed her decision to be a fighter, she stated that there were none and in fact, her brother Bon was a major influence of her becoming one.

“Wala naman tumututol, pero minsan nag-aalala yung iba kong mga tita baka di na raw ako magkaanak lalo na at malapit ko nang lagpasan ng kalendaryo. Pero mostly sa kanila proud sa akin at suportado ako,” she said with a chuckle.

(I have not heard any opposition, but some of them, like my aunts were worried that I might not be able to bear children especially now that I am getting older. But a lot of them, are proud and supportive of me.)

On the other hand, the 22 year-old Rivas encountered initial objections from her parents when they found out that she was training as a boxer. Born from a well-to-do family, the young athlete sneaked out of school and cut classes so that she can box. That prompted her father to come home immediately from a trip in the United States to try to dissuade her from becoming a pugilist.

“Ako po, ayaw ko talaga siya sa boxing kaya sinumbong ko siya sa daddy niya. Natuklasan na lang namin na nagboboxing na pala, kaya umuwi noon ang dad niya galing sa USA para kausapin siya. Noong una galit kami pareho at tutol kami kasi at that time alam namin na nag-aaral siya, iyon pala hindi na,” revealed her mother, Ana, who was a professional actress and singer.

(I really don’t want her to be a boxer and that is why I told her daddy about her boxing. We found out that she was boxing instead of studying in school. Her dad immediately booked a trip from the US to return here and he talked to her. We were mad at first because at that time we thought she was busy with her studies, which was not the case.)

But Rivas was steadfast in pursuing a career above the ring, she explained to her parents that this is what her heart desires and she made a deal with them that would eventually soften their opposition.

“Kinausap ko po silang mabuti. Ang sabi ko po eto po ang gusto kong gawin ngayon, sana po payagan ninyo na po ako, sabi ko po sa kanila itutuloy ko po ang studies ko kapag hindi po ko nagtagumpay, o pag nagchampion na po ako,” chronicled the young Rivas who also excelled in basketball of which she was an MVP in high school, in badminton of which she was a member of the varsity in college and also in Muay Thai.

(I spoke to them and sincerely told then that this is what I want to do at this time and I hope they will allow me to do so. I told them I will stop studying for now and concentrate in boxing. If I am not successful or will not become a champion then I will stop boxing and resume my studies.)

“Gusto ko pong gawin ito ngayon dahil nag-eenjoy po ako, atsaka gusto ko din po makapag-inspire ng ibang babae na kung ano man gusto nilang i-pursue na sports, panlalaki man o man’s world na sport, dapat ituloy nila at huwag nilang isipin kung anu man ang sasabihin ng ibang tao,” Rivas added.

(I want to do this because I am enjoying it and I also wanted to inspire other women to pursue the sport that they want, whether it is for men or a man’s world kind of sports, they should go for it and not mind what other people will think or say about it.)

Pagaduan shares her opponent’s thoughts and believes that they can do what their male counterparts’ can, in a physical and bruising sport such as boxing.

“Well sa akin lang, pareho lang ang babae sa lalaki na kaya din namin lahat maski mahirap. Kaya din naming maging champion basta magpursige lang. Sa akin halimbawa kahit maliit ako sa height kumpara sa mga nakakalaban ko, gusto kong maging halimbawa sa iba na kaya kong tapatan ang matatangkad sa akin,” Pagaduan asserted.

(Well for me, I believe that men and women are equal and that we can also do everything that they can do even if it is physically hard. We can also be world champions like them, as long as we work hard. Like me for example, I am short compared to those that I have faced in the past. I want to show them that I can fare well against them, despite their advantage in height.)

The dream for Rivas and Pagaduan culminated last night Manila when the two competed against each other for the vacant Philippine female minimum weight title as part of promoter and manager Anson Tiu Co and his Shape-Up Boxing Promotions’ fight card at the Barangay San Dionisio covered court in Paranaque City.

Both motivated, they threw away all stereotypes regarding their gender outside that four cornered ring where they gave it all in a scheduled six round fight. Pagaduan, the more experienced of the two won the fight via a 3rd round TKO against a game Rivas and the national title in the process.

Rivas, who was suffering from diarrhea all day, never considered backing out from the fight. Her mother wanted to cancel the fight but she would not hear any of it. She fought stoutly against Pagaduan but came up short.

Jessebelle Pagaduan and Carleans Rivas are not your typical women. No, they are not your typical Filipinas either. They represent what today’s breed of women and Filipinas are and want to become – strong inside and out.

If you want to find a model for Women Power and Pinay Power – look no further. These girls fit the bill.

You can reach the author at and on Twitter @Freemazon910.

Photo: Jessebelle Pagaduan and Carleans Rivas duke it out atop the ring Saturday night. Photo by Alvin S. Go.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Rich Mazon .

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