The search for the next Pacquiao

Edwin G. Espejo
The search for the next Pacquiao
The punishing gym work has made many would-be Pacquiaos quit before they can even register a couple of wins. The success rate is very slim in the brutal world of boxing.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – In the far away corner of the Sanman Gym, John Vincent Moralde is lazily hitting the double ended punching ball.

Moralde has yet to figure in a fight after winning a unanimous decision against Australian Brayd Smith in March this year. With an impressive record of 12 wins in 12 professional fights, he should have no trouble finding another out. 

The problem is, Smith died March 16 due to severe head injuries after collapsing in his dressing room about 90 minutes after he lost to Moralde.

It left Moralde shaken. 

But Moralde knows he has leave the tragic memory in the past.

(WATCH: Boxer John Moralde continues to spar with opponent’s death)

After all, he and the rest of his stable mates are living their dreams to become the next Manny Pacquiao, whose lavish mansion is just over a kilometer away from the restaurant cum function venue turned into a gym by their promoter and manager Jim Claude Manangquil. 

Originally from Davao City, Moralde made this city his second home in his pursuit for fame and glory. 

So have the 14 others in the gym hoping to follow the footsteps of the most famous son this city has ever produced.

The road is not easy 

To some, boxing is as easy as wearing the padded mitts and knocking the other guy out. 

 GenSan based boxers from left to right: Lightweight Adam Diu Abdulhamid (6-2, 1 KO), junior flyweight Raymond Tabugon (16-3-1, 6 KOs), featherweight Romero Duno (6-0, 5 KOs), lightweight Harmonito Dela Torre (16-0, 11 KOs), junior bantamweight Michael Enriquez (11-3-1, 7 KOs), bantamweight Raymart Gaballo (9-0, 7 KOs), and featherweight John Vincent Moralde (12-0, 6 KOs). All but Enriquez train out of the Sanman Gym. Photo by Edwin Espejo

But before one even climbs the ring for a 4 round professional fight, he must have already logged more than 500 rounds of sparring, ran more than a 1,000 full marathons, skipped the rope a million times, punched the heavy bag more than 100,000 times and punished himself like no other.

The punishing gym work has made many would-be Pacquiaos quit before they can even register a couple of wins. The success rate is very slim in the brutal world of boxing.

For every one Pacquiao that made it big time – and he is the only Filipino and Asian to have reached the pinnacle of world boxing fame – more than a 100,000 others have fallen in the wayside. 

There is no doubt many of Moralde’s stable mates won’t make it beyond as a 10-rounder, let alone become Philippine champion. 


But they have to live that dream. Boxing is a poor man’s sports. Fame and glory is a boxer’s way out of the poverty rut. 

Like lightweight Harmonito dela Torre, one of the brighter prospects in the Sanman’s Promotion’s stable apart from World Boxing Association interim flyweight boxing champion and stable mate Randy Petalcorin.

Dela Torre had to leave his birthplace Cagayan de Oro City to pursue a professional boxing career. 

So far so good. 

He is undefeated in 16 professional fights and has seen action on the undercards of the 2 fights promoted by Top Rank in Macau, China, including one of his ring idol Pacquiao.

Dela Torre is reported to have signed a co-managerial contract with former world welterweight champion Zab Judah.

It is a wise move. No Filipino boxer has ever made it big without signing up with foreign managers with the right ring connection.  

Even Manny Pacquiao went through an acrimonious managerial dispute with Murad Muhammad who he later sued. 

Like Petalcorin, who also signed up with Australian Peter Maniatis, dela Torre still trains at Sanman Gym waiting for his next bout call. 

Boxing renaissance 

Pro boxing has picked up in this city ever since Pacquiao broke out into the world boxing scene. 

John Vincent Moralde has had to deal with the death of his most recent opponent, Brayd Smith. Photo by Edwin Espejo/Rappler

But the renaissance has never paced up so quickly the last few months with the thought and reality that Pacquiao may be down to his last fight or two before hanging up his gloves for good. 

In a span of 2 months, 3 boxing cards have already been put up and another one is coming up on July 11.  What makes the local boxing scene interesting is the re-entry of MP Promotions, a largely Davao-based promotional outfit owned by Pacquiao and managed by trusted second Nonoy Neri.

There are also at least 2 other promoters maintaining a good number of boxers in their stable – Amoy Boxing and Golingan Boxing stables.

Many of their boxers have not registered in the consciousness of Filipino boxing fans – like the ALA and Gello-ani boxers of Cebu who have been getting national TV exposure.   

(READ: After Pacquiao: 5 Filipino boxers 25-and-under to follow)

Local promoters here are hoping their wards will get similar attention soon. General Santos, after all, officially fancies itself as ‘Home of Champions.’  

Now is their time to shine and prove there is life in Philippine boxing beyond Pacquiao.  

After all, before Pacquiao, there were the Pancho Villas, Gabriel Flash Elordes, Luisito Espinosas, Gerry Peñalosas and General Santos City’s very own Rolando Navarrette.

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