By Derek Bonnett: Over the last few years, the last couple of weeks in particular, it has been hard not to get caught up in all of the speculation regarding Manny Pacquiao, his place among boxing legends, and the outcome of a super-fight, P4P showdown against Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- it’s been a hell of an experience.
However, the General Santos City native needn’t fill the entire spectrum of Filipino boxing. I’m sure we can reserve a small percentage of our scope for the best of the rest that is a steadily growing population in the world boxing scene. Most of the Filipino fighters sub-Pacquiao exist as mere names on extensive lists of divisional rankings 115 pounds and below.
From Pacquiao, we have a huge gap until we get to Nonito Donaire, who appeared to be a star in the making following his KO of Vic Darchinyan, but even his meteoric rise to the top of the game has drastically cooled. He’s managed several defenses and has looked impressive from time to time. He’s even added a title at a new weight class after moving up from flyweight. Yet, we find ourselves talking more about Darchinyan these days than the Bohol native. This is in spite of the fact that Donaire has found a firm base in the USA by relocating to California and turning professional there.
What about the rest?
Former world ranked strawweight and two-time world title challenger, Ala Villamor, offered some insight on the Filipino boxing scene that is often shrouded by a demi-god like Pacquiao and the still rising Donaire.
"Boxing is very important to our homeland because it’s the only way to get big money and we can help our parents," Villamor stated. "There’s a lot of talented fighters in the Philippines, but the problem is the lack of exposure of the boxers to fight in the states and most of them are mismanaged."
Villamor, while never the household name that Pac-Man has become, is still an important fixture in Filipino boxing. Villamor is the chief trainer of the ALA Boxing Gym named after Villamor’s former manager Antonio L. Aldeguer. Now, he takes all the experience and insight he gained over a 29-2-1 (26) career and imparts it upon the next generation of Filipino world championship caliber boxers.
"I’m very, very proud because I fought one the best fighters at that time, Ricardo Lopez, and he’s a legend," Villamor shared. "I ended my career very early at the age 25 because of my broken left hand. It was operated on in 1993 and never healed after we fought Lopez in 1996. I also fought former world champion Nico Tomas in Cebu and it was packed full at the Cebu coliseum; it was my turning point. I was known around the world and became the number one [strawweight] of all the major organizations. I also fought former world champion Napa Kiatwanchai in Japan. Both fights I won by knockouts."
Currently, Villamor is impressed by a number of world ranked contenders and prospects such as Milan Melindo (105), Donnie Nietes (105), Rey Bautista (126), AJ Banal (118), and Z Gorres (115). Melindo recently upset former world champion Muhammad Rachman. Nietes captured a version of the minimumweight alphabet pie with a victory over Manuel Vargas. Gorres has given tough fights to both Darchinyan and Fernando Montiel, but the only publicity he’s receiving these days is out of concern.
"Sadly, Gorres is in the hospital now because of [a subdural hematoma after] his last fight, but Mark Jason Melligen, Michael Domingo, Jason Pagara, James Bacon, Larry "Bon Jovi" Canillas are [other Filipino boxers with great potential]," Villamor stated.
Just looking at the numbers associated with each fighter, it’s very easy to understand why their names are not more commonly known. Strawweights, flyweights, and bantamweights, etc. just don’t get the attention they are due unfortunately.
How many people knew Manny Pacquiao as a flyweight champion outside of hardcore boxing fans?
" I know that here in the states 105 receives only a little attention, but in Mexico, Philippines, Thailand, Japan, and Indonesia, they look at things a different way; they give so much attention on this weight," Villamor confirmed.
If this is the only consolation for us lovers of the lighter weights, then I have to personally ask fans from these boxing rich countries to please help the rest of us out and put up as much fight coverage involving these fighters on YouTube! Personally, I’ve been able to find some lighter weight coverage there, but not a whole lot concerning the Filipino hopefuls Villamor has sparked my interest in. One name that Villamor did not mention that you will find is Marvin Sonsona, whose stock took a hit last weekend after suffering a draw against an unheralded challenger. Still, Sonsona’s rise to 122 from 115 should be interesting even if it isn’t Pacquiao-esque regarding importance.
Pacquiao, Pacquiao, Pacquiao.
It truly may be impossible to get him off of our minds for the sake of these other combatants. Manny’s mainstream persona has put him in Time magazine and even in the conversations of casual sports fans by the water cooler. That’s not a bad thing, but neither is looking out for the little guys.
So, what does Villamor think of Pac-Man?
"Manny Pacquiao is the most exciting fighter to watch today because he’s a good finisher and we know that if his opponent gets groggy, he has the killer instinct to finish him off," Villamor explained. "When he won against Marco Antonio Barrera, I knew Manny would become the greatest boxer of all time. Pacquiao versus Mayweather needs to happen. Boxing fans deserve this and it’s for the good for the sport."
November 30, 2009