Philippines, 28 Nov 2022
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Bleacher Talk: Arigato Rocky!

Japan has been rocked by Cebu Boxing!

No, we?re not talking about Donnie Nietes who can proudly claim to ?own? Mexico with all his wins there. Neither are we talking about Boom Boom Bautista who is a crowd favorite in Dubai. Mark Jason Melligen? Make that Vegas for him, and maybe in the future, Jason Pagara will also call Vegas his second base of operations should he do well there. Call it a case of ALA Boxing conquering the world in its own little way, as they now have a boxing ?ambassador? to Japan in the person of Rocky Fuentes.

Getting a new lease on his career, he is now the Oriental Pacific Boxing Federation (OPBF) flyweight champion, making Japan his base for his OPBF title fights in 2010. He has fought three times in Japan already, and adding his other fight on local shores, he?s the busiest fighter of the ALA Boxing Gym for 2010. I?m willing to bet that you didn?t even know that, did you? But that?s Rocky for you. Doing his thing under the radar without much fanfare, but more importantly getting the job done. He won the OPBF championship over Masafumi Okubo via majority decision last March. He then went back to Japan in June to defend his title and defeat Shigetaka Ikehara by TKO in the 11th round in what has been described as one of Japan?s best fights of the year. And as if that was not enough, he went back to Japan again two weeks ago to score another TKO win, this time against Yasuto Aritomi. This was the shortest of his title fights, lasting ?only? eight rounds. At his rate of one fight every three months, I wonder if this means another fight in December? If his contract with the Japanese promoters allow it, maybe he should take a break and go back into action early 2011. But this is just a personal opinion. If he?s on a roll, then let?s keep it going. If Donnie Nietes owns Mexico, then Rocky has owned Japan, at least at the OPBF level. But give him time; he?ll be ready for the Japanese world champs soon. At 24 years old, he?s got a lot of boxing years ahead of him.

The irony of his fights in Japan is that this was his first trip there since 2006 in what looked like a fight arranged to see how things go, more than making it a career move (to go to Japan). He first fought in Japan in 2006, scoring a split decision win over then undefeated Yuki Nasu. But no other foreign fights were arranged for Rocky since then. All his fights between then and 2010 were all on local shores. Previous to this 2006 trip, he had made trips to Thailand and Indonesia with mixed results, winning three and losing one fight in Indonesia, and losing all his three fights in Thailand. With a record of 27-6-2, 17 KO?s, Rocky isn?t as impressive on paper as his more popular ALA Gym boxers. After losing in his first attempt to win the Philippine flyweight championship to Jojo Bardon in 2006 and later to title prospect Richie Mepranum in a non-title fight in 2007, many had more questions than answers as to how far Rocky would go in his career. We must also remember that he still lives with the stigma of having an opponent pass away after one of his fights early in his career.

True to his name, Rocky has had a bit of a ?rocky? roller coaster ride of a career at a fresh age of 24. He?s been fighting as a pro boxer since 2003 when he was presented as a bright prospect for a world championship from the ALA Gym. Right beside him in the gym then were the likes of Z Gorres, Rodel Mayol, Wyndel Janiola, Boom Boom Bautista, Donnie Nietes and the arrival of AJ Banal, Milan Melindo, Michael Domingo, Mark Jason Melligen, Jason Bagara, and James Bacon later. With all of them as brothers under the ALA management, I wasn?t surprised that he didn?t get the juicy and high-profile fights that the others got. Along with this came the popularity and attention from the media and fans. He was somehow always in the background getting the job done in his own quiet way. But being patient does have its own rewards. Rocky has made his statement. Like Nietes, he built his stock the old fashioned way. No U.S., Dubai or Mexico. No Kapamilya or Kapuso to lean on. Just plain hard work in the Philippines, and when the opportunity to fight in Japan finally came, he fought like there was no tomorrow.

At this stage, everything?s looking bright for Rocky. With a newfound confidence and a boxing past already forgotten, Rocky is ready to rock Japan even further. He?ll keep himself busy with OPBF title fights in Japan and possibly one or two here in Cebu. And when the timing is ripe in the future, he?ll be ready for the world.

Arigato Rocky!

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Rico Navarro.

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