With the impending retirement of the country’s greatest boxing icon Manny Pacquiao drawing close, questions arise as to who shall take up the cudgels to keep the country among the world’s elite boxing circles. At 37, Pacquiao is getting ready to move on to his second career, after giving the country more than a decade of pride and glory.
Two veterans, Nonito ‘The Fighting Flash’ Donaire and Donnie ‘Ahas’ Nietes, stand ready to inherit the responsibility of leading the country’s best boxers. But with both past their prime at 33 years of age, they too are expected to step down the ring with finality in the next few years.
Looking into the future, there are some exciting prospects who should keep Pinoy fight fans glued to their seats.
Foremost among them are two brothers, ‘Prince’ Albert and Jason ‘El Nino’ Pagara. The Leyte-raised siblings are products of the ALA Gym, arguably the country’s top boxing stable today.
‘Prince’ Albert is only 21 years old, and sports a spotless 25-0 win-loss card with 18 KOs. The younger of the Pagara duo, the ‘Prince’ copped the WBO Youth Intercontinental Super Bantamweight crown by punishing Nicaraguan William Gonzales to a 6th-round KO submission in California last October.
Albert has a strong personality that has made him an instant fan favorite. His KO rate has impressed international pug analysts who say it is only a matter of time before he gets pitted against the world’s marquee names. Albert will see action once again this February against a still unnamed opponent in Cebu.
Jason ‘El Nino’ Pagara is 23 years old, and has an impressive 37-2 record with 23 KOs. The elder and more mature Jason took only his second loss in 2010 against Mexican Rosbel Montoya, when they fought for the WBO Asia Pacific Light Welterweight belt.
Since then, he has racked up 10 successive wins, with one of them a scintillating 6th round TKO to avenge his loss against Montoya, capturing the WBO International Light Welterweight title in the process.
Next on the list is Bohol’s very own Mark ‘Magnifico’ Magsayo. At 20, this exciting young knockout artist from Dauis has had more than 200 amateur bouts under his belt, sports a dazzling 12-0 pro record with 10 knockouts, and has annexed the IBF Youth Featherweight crown.
Magsayo’s most recent first round demolition of Yardley Suarez, an erstwhile unbeaten Mexican champion, is a preview of things to come. Mark stepped into the California ring oozing with confidence, immediately pummeling a clueless Suarez with a heavy artillery barrage from all angles. Smelling blood after his initial foray, the power-hitting Magsayo wasted no time in launching a second wave of brutal head shots, wobbling the hexed Mex before finally toppling him and sending the referee to thankfully intervene at the two-minute mark of the very first round.
Despite his tender age of 20, Mark has already acquired the slick moves of a veteran, the speed and sting of a world-class fighter, and the uncanny killer instinct of a champion. Now, if he acquires the patience of a panther, we could be seeing the next big thing right here.
‘Marvelous’ Marvin Sonsona zoomed to the very top in 2009 at the tender age of 19, winning the WBO Super Flyweight crown in exciting fashion. His career would careen from good to bad due to an evident lack of discipline and focus. At 25, Marvin has been striving to check that flaw in his armor and now has a 20-1-1 win-loss-draw record. His only blemish was a 4th round KO loss to Puerto Rican Wilfredo Vasquez Jr for the WBO Super Bantamweight title in February 2010.
He has since avenged that loss with a split decision win over Vasquez for the NABF Featherweight title last June 2014. Last year, Marvin teamed up with the controversial trainer, Angel Heredia, in California. But the partnership has not produced good results so far, as Marvin could only post an unimpressive majority decision win over an unheralded American fighter, Jonathan Arellano, last Jun 2015.
With Pacquiao getting ready to hang up his gloves for good once elected to the Senate this coming election, this next generation of promising pugilists will need to step up to keep Pinoy fan appetite whetted. Manny will definitely be missed. He has brought Philippine Boxing to greater heights, and for that, we are eternally grateful.
But as sure as Manny’s shining star will eventually fade, new stars will be discovered. They too will have their chance to twinkle and shine, to light up our worlds, and bring us more laughter as well as tears.
The next batch of world title hopefuls have their work cut out for them. Manny has set a bar almost impossible to reach. But with proper training and discipline, with dedication and focus, with proper motivation and plenty of inspiration, nothing is impossible. We can – and yes, we will – see the Philippines in the hunt for big-time boxing banners.
(More pictures courtesy of rappler.com, inquirer.net, philstar.com, huffingtonpost.com, youtube.com, dailymail.co.uk, ibtimes.co.uk, philboxing.com, alaboxing.com, boxingvideo.org)