MACAU – It’s Wednesday afternoon, three days before Harmonito Dela Torre is scheduled to fight for the second time in three months. Despite it being his birthday, Dela Torre is picking at a plate of vegetables while his team eats full meals of rice, beef and chicken.
This is part of the sacrifice that goes along with being a boxer, as the 5-foot-7 native of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines shrinks down to the 132-pound weight limit for his fight with Indonesian Yakobus Heluka (7-5) at the Venetian Resort in Macau on Saturday.
If there’s a hunger that dominates Dela Torre’s life, it’s a hunger to succeed. The 20-year-old Dela Torre (11-0, 6 knockouts) is the oldest of nine children, with the youngest being 2-years old. Through professional boxing, he has been able to finance their schooling and help his father finance a small furniture store in Cagayan de Oro.
“I started boxing at 16 years old because my family needed money. There’s no other way,” said Dela Torre, who boxes in the junior lightweight division.
With little prior experience, Dela Torre earned a spot on the Philippine national amateur boxing team before turning pro in January of 2012. He signed with GenSan-based manager Jim Claude Manangquil and Australian promoter Peter Maniatis, relocating to the Tuna Capital of the Philippines shortly after.
“Harmonito is an awkward fighter,” said Manangquil, when asked what he saw that made him sign Dela Torre. “This kid has ring smarts, is brave, and has good stamina, power, speed and footwork.
General Santos City, besides being known for its tuna canneries, is also the hometown of eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao. Dela Torre began training out of the Pacman Gym across from SM General Santos City, impressing the gym’s owner in his sessions with well-regarded Filipino boxers Michael Farenas and Dave Penalosa.
Dela Torre had only fought in covered courts and city markets to that point, when Manny Pacquiao offered him a spot on the undercard of his fight with Brandon Rios in November. When Dela Torre walked out into the 15,000 capacity Cotai Arena at the Venetian Resort to face Jason Butar-Butar of Indonesia, he admits he was nervous.
“I was shocked before,” said Dela Torre. “The lights, the arena, because before I only fought on club shows. I was nervous then, but now I’m ready.”
Though the magnitude of the event may have unnerved him, Dela Torre had nothing to worry about once inside the ring. Using his noticeable size advantage, Dela Torre imposed his physicality on Butar-Butar, knocking him out in round three on a punch hard to identify.
The conclusion resulted in some minor teasing, leaving Dela Torre something to prove. “During training we always tease him in the gym that he has a strong push,” said Manangquil.
On a serious note, Manangquil feels that his fighter needs to improve his defense and punch more in combination to succeed at the higher levels of the sport.
Dela Torre is one of three Filipino boxers on the card, including former WBO junior bantamweight champion Marvin Sonsona (17-1-1, 14 KOs) of General Santos City and Jerwin Ancajas (18-1, 10 KOs) of Cagayan De Oro, whom Dela Torre sparred with to prepare for this fight.
Dela Torre’s opponent on Saturday may not be any more formidable than his previous challenger, as Heluka has a knockout loss to Butar-Butar on his record. Boxing is the theater of the unpredictable though, and triangle theories hold no weight once the bell rings.
“All I know is that [Heluka] lost to the guy Harmonito beat last time but we are careful as this is boxing and anything can happen,” said Manangquil. – Rappler.com