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SONSONA VOWS TO RECOVER LOST GROUND


PhilBoxing.com




MACAU – He was sitting at the edge of the presidential table to the right where the Top Rank fighters sit during the Ring of Gold press conference Wednesday afternoon at the foyer of the Venetian Theatre when his name was called by Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum, as always legendary Bob presides the proceedings during big Top Rank events.

Wearing a blue baseball cap and a blue jacket, he hesitatingly walked into the dais to say a few words in front of the assembled international media, mostly Chinese and Japanese and a few Russians, here to cover their Olympians who now campaign in the pro ranks and who may be more interested to hear their boxers speak than this unknown face now standing in front of them.

After thanking the audience and his promoters, he told them in Tagalog: “I will make this a good fight so you will know that I am Marvin Sonsona.”

Sonsona, from General Santos City, was one of the few Filipino future boxing stars being touted as heir apparent to superstar Manny Pacquiao, who also hails from General Santos City. Sonsona turned pro in July, 2007 and became a world champion on September 4, 2009 at the age of 19 defeating Jose Lopez of Puerto Rico in a WBO super flyweight world title fight at Casino Rama in Ontario, Canada after only his 14th ring battle, undefeated, with only 3 fights going the distance. Sonsona made history that Friday night by becoming the 2nd youngest Filipino world champion next only to former WBA world champion Morris East and became the toast of Philippine boxing.

Saying that the future was bright for this teen sensation is an understatement. “The sky was the limit for Marvin then,” Sammy Gello-ani, Sonsona's Filipino promoter, told us at the media room at the fabulous Venetian Hotel Wednesday just before the scheduled afternoon presscon had started. “We had lined up huge fights for him to make him a real big star,” he said.


"I will let you know who Marvin Sonsona is," Sonsona told the media during Wednesday's presscon.


Team Sonsona at the Venetian Macao (L-R): Manager Dr Rajan Yraola, Trainer Jun Agrabio, Sonsona, International promoter and matchmaker Sampson Lewkowicz and Filipino promoter Samson Gello-ani.

Photos by Dong Secuya.

But – a big but – because it became a downward spiral for the Gensan kid right after that moment of glory. Sonsona struggled to make weight in his next fight and was lucky to get the draw and retained his title against Alejandro Hernandez of Mexico on Nov. 21, 2009. Three months later, Sonsona lost his title by a body-crunching 4th round knockout against Wilfredo Vazquez Jr of Puerto Rico.

It is not that Marvin lacked the skills to compete at the very top because most local boxing experts saw the extra-ordinary skill inherent in the kid. Javier Fortuna, the undefeated Dominican Interim WBA super featherweight champion told Sampson Lewkowicz, Sonsona's international promoter, that he “never saw a talent like Marvin Sonsona. Sonsona is something special.”

The problem was Sonsona himself appeared to not be able to handle his new found fame and success and instead got lost in vices which eventually led to the loss of hunger to fight. “Yes, he got caught into drinking. Because he had money, he got caught up with friends and relatives as his drinking buddies. He got involved with women too and he has a daughter in Thailand,” Gello-ani told us. “In his fight against Vazquez we had a hard time to make him train. His body was soft before that fight and Vazquez knew where to hit him,” Gello-ani added.

Even when Sonsona returned to the ring after almost two years of inactivity in October, 2011, defeating Mexican Carlos Jacobo in Cebu, the same issues still hung around him – especially his lack of enthusiasm to train. Having lost all his winnings, he may had been forced to climbed into the ring just to get by. He took a couple of small fights in March and September last year, the last one against journeyman Jason Egera in a small town in Cebu, the purses of which were not enough to get him out of financial trouble as he had been observed by Gello-ani to keep on advancing money from him and borrowing money from friends. “I only gave him money if he trains, that's our understanding,” Gello-ani confided.

What may be the turning point for Sonsona was when their small house in Gensan got burned down last November. “His trainer, Jun Agrabio, told me last month that Marvin wants to fight. I told Jun that I would agree only if Marvin agrees that he would train seriously and his training will be properly monitored,” Gello-ani said. After Sonsona consented, Gello-ani set a small card for him in Gensan on Feb. 28.

Enter 'Picasso'.

Lewkowicz, who proudly wears the 'Picasso' monicker in honor to the great Spanish painter, was trying to arrange a fight for newly crowned South African WBA and IBO featherweight champion Simpiwe Vetyeka against Akifumi Shimoda, the WBA No. 2 contender and a former world champion, for a Feb. 22 date in Macau. The WBA however, refused to sanction the fight. Lewkowicz offered Akihiko Honda, Shimoda's influential Japanese promoter, an Argentine fighter as a replacement for Vetyeka that Honda rejected.

“Sampson called me last month asking if Marvin is ready to fight on Feb. 22. It was great timing,” Gello-ani said.

So Lewcowicz offered Sonsona to Honda which Honda initially rejected. “Then we gave them an offer that they can't refuse,” Lewkowicz said. “We offered them a full title fight purse.” Sonsona and Shimoda will fight for the vacant WBO International Featherweight title.

“Sonsona is always in the back of my mind because he's a special kid,” Lewkowicz said. During their talks here in Macau, Sonsona told Lewkowicz that he needed money to repair their burned house. “No, you need to buy a new house,” Lewkowicz told Sonsona. “You can buy even two or three new houses if you keep on boxing.”

“It's time to change,” Sonsona told me. “Even them [his friends and relatives] were surprised that I've changed,” Sonsona, who was only two pounds above the weight limit Thursday for today's weighin, said. Asked what made him changed his ways, he said, “I'm old now, I need to get serious with my life.”

He is a young 'old' at 23 – will tomorrow night's fight be the start of a fulfillment of the potential for a once highly regarded young boxing phenom? Or will it be a nail in the coffin for a wasted talent? This is what makes boxing very compelling – one night's result can be full of drama, changing a whole direction of one man's life to the height of fame and success or to the bottom of oblivion and ignominy. And for a boxer, oftentimes he carries – his trainers, managers, promoters, friends and relatives – along with him.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Dong Secuya.


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