Thursday, November 08, 2007

Filipino Flash

Veteran sportswriter Percy Della has a house off the shores of Candon and we have had bottles of great California wine talking about his good old bad days. He's now in Sacramento, back from retirement to be Guv. Ahnuld's PR on energy. Agawid kan, Manong.

Philboxing’s glimmer man
Percy D. Della

Sacramento, California - Nonito Donaire Jr., true to his moniker came to our attention in a glimmer. The Filipino Flash became a dual boxing world champion with our eyes almost wide shut. Now that he has completely emerged into our consciousness, the current IBF and IBO flyweight king will stay there for a long while. There are a million reasons why. A raging bull in the ring, Nonito a lamb off the canvas and seems as though he would never hurt a fly. He reminds boxing fans of the original Flash – the late Gabriel Elorde. Elorde hit pay dirt all right, but not in the millions during his long reign as world junior lightweight champ; yet “Bay” remains arguably the greatest Pinoy pug of all time. He was adored in life and is revered even in death. Nonito has heard about the Hall of Famer whose humility -- amid his fistic feat—the young champ tries to follow. “I can never match Elorde’s greatness, “ the present Flash concedes. “But his ideals will live in me. Elorde is going to box through me.” Nonito Jr. floored everyone, from the great Oscar de la Hoya on down to this writer with his gentlemanly ways during the World Cup of boxing in Sacramento a quarter or so ago. I was so impressed I followed up our talk that night with phone calls and e-mails before he flew to the Philippines recently. He is training at the ALA gym in Cebu for his December 1 title defense against Mexican challenger Luis Maldonado in Connecticut. When Nonito Jr. knocked out champion Vic Darchinyan in a stunning upset for the IBF flyweight crown earlier this year, Filipino fight fans were slow to react because of his American sounding name. They had no idea that the U.S-based boxer came to California at age 10 with his family from General Santos City by way of Talibon, Bohol. Fans of Olympic style boxing are also pleasantly surprised to know that Nonito Jr. made it to the finals of the US Olympic trials in 2001, only to lose a controversial decision to another Filipino American world champion -- Brian Viloria Jr. Donaire may have doubted the outcome of that fight and momentary lost trust in the judges that night, but it was no excuse for losing his manners. And he never did. Despite his Western upbringing, Nonito Jr. wears his Filipino heritage like a badge. He speaks English with an American accent, but can easily switch to fluent Visayan and Tagalog. “Po”, the Pinoy term of respect is a staple of his speech. “Losing is the worst feeling, “ he says, as he looks back to the Viloria loss. “It gave me the fortitude to fight my best and give all I got so that I’d avoid the feeling of shame.” Backed by this resolve and a family who encouraged him everyday to fulfill his wish of becoming world champion, the San Leandro, California kid figured it out. The result is a sparse but sterling professional record of 16 professional wins, nine by knockout, against a loss. Statistically, that’s a win percentage of 94% and a KO rate of 56%. The glimmer man has vaulted into our minds. He will be there for sometime. Because there are a million reasons why.

Sports note: J.B. Yango, known as the Cuyapo Kid during his heyday in the PBA and in several national teams, survived a recent razor blade attack in Barangay 5, Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija. Well wishes from his California-based kababayans are pouring in for the termed-out provincial board member. Since there was nary a word about the incident in the major Manila dailies, I hope his former teammates and well-placed friends in the big city are aware of it. Get well J.B. and good luck from the original Cuyapo Kid.

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