MANILA, Philippines – Boxing is dead? Not quite. Boxing, like rock n’ roll and other institutions whose demises have been prematurely reported, will stick around as long as the circumstances that feed it remain.
For boxing, that means the hardscrabble poverty that has spawned young men who are willing to fight for money, plus the desire of the public to live vicariously through the bravery of others.
The tired “boxing is dead” storyline has been propagated by a mainstream media that prefer sports that are played with balls over sports that require balls.
Boxing, though a distant second to basketball in terms of popularity in the Philippines, still attracts many between its ropes, not as an easy way out, but for many, an only way out of poverty.
Manny Pacquiao’s loss earlier this month against Floyd Mayweather Jr demonstrated the fallibility of the Philippine sports standard bearer. He’s 36 years old, and soon the nation’s boxing tradition will look towards a new fighter to fill Araneta Coliseum, the Philippine Arena or perhaps even the casinos of Las Vegas.
There will never be another Manny Pacquiao, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other fighters who can make names of their own.
For Marvin Sonsona, no opponent has been tougher to overcome than himself. One of the biggest one-shot punchers in the world, Sonsona has overcome years of inactivity and weight issues to crash the featherweight rankings.
The 8-year veteran won his first championship in 2009 with a hard-fought victory over Jose Lopez, but lost it two months later after failing to make weight. Three months after, he suffered his only loss to Wilfredo Vazquez Jr.
Sonsona reminded audiences that he was still a threat with a violent one-punch knockout of Akifumi Shimoda in 2014, and avenged the loss to Vazquez in his U.S. debut later that year.
Sonsona is now living and training out of Las Vegas, away from the distractions of the Philippines. Sonsona is now signed with boxing power-broker Al Haymon and works out under the watchful eye of Angel Heredia, who once conditioned Juan Manuel Marquez to a knockout win over Pacquiao.
Sonsona’s first fight with his new team will be on June 6 when he faces Jonathan Arrellano (15-5-2, 3 KOs) at the Stubhub Center in Carson, California.
Johnriel Casimero earned a reputation as the road warrior of Philippine boxing, traveling to Nicaragua, Mexico, South Africa – anywhere he had to in order to get a big fight. His 2012 fight with Luis Lazarte demonstrated the dangers of fighting in hostile territory, as Argentinian fans stormed the ring and initiated a riot.
Casimero won the IBF junior flyweight title that night, and made 3 defenses before being stripped for missing weight before his May 2014 fight with Mauricio Fuentes.
Casimero is now rooming with Sonsona in Las Vegas and will get a chance at a second world title on June 27 when he travels to Thailand to face IBF flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng.
Out of the mountains of Davao, Randy Petalcorin has finally begun to find the success his career had always promised. He won his first major title in August 2014 when he knocked out Walter Tello in Shanghai, China, for the interim WBA junior flyweight title.
The southpaw boxer-puncher looked authoritative in his first defense this past April, knocking out Ma Yi Ming in one round in Beijing. Promoted by General Santos City-based Jim Claude Manangquil and Australia-based Peter Maniatis, Petalcorin could be on pace to meet the best of the 108 pound division in the near future.
Questions about his heart and chin remain following his 2010 knockout loss to Marlon Tapales, but it appears that winning a belt has brought added confidence and incentive.
With an aggressive two-fisted punching style and a standing backflip post-fight celebration, Mark Magsayo has all of the attributes to be a popular fighter for years to come. Magsayo had 200 amateur fights under his belt before opting to withdraw from the national team pool and turn professional a month before his 18th birthday.
Magsayo was busy in 2014, fighting 5 times. Magsayo is promoted by ALA Promotions, which is hoping to relocate him to the United States where he can fight and train with other featherweight boxers.
Magsayo might grow into the lightweight division, where his mixture of power and charisma could earn him a following.
Albert Pagara has proven that he’s more than just a cool haircut over the past two years, having stepped up in the last two years to become a legitimate prospect in the 122-pound division. The younger brother of junior welterweight prospect Jason Pagara, Albert has shown a good mixture of combination punching and defensive awareness.
Pagara showed there was some pop in his straight right hand against Rodolfo Hernandez in his last bout, and that he could maintain his focus against a durable opponent like Raul Hirales in the fight before that.
Promoter ALA Boxing wants to bring Pagara to the United States as well, where his top 15 ranking with two organizations could earn him big fights in the near future. – Rappler.com
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.