McTavish of the Philippines
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - November 8, 2015 - 9:00am

Venerated boxing referee Bruce McTavish has brought a new honor to the country. McTavish was at the just-concluded World Boxing Council convention in Kunming, China, where over 750 delegates – 550 from other countries and over 200 from China, converged for their annual meeting. For the second time in three years, the long-time resident of Angeles, Pampanga was named the World Boxing Council Referee of the Year, adding another sterling achievement on an incomparable career.  What made it sweeter for the beloved philanthropist was that he was introduced as “Bruce McTavish from the Philippines.” It was sweet music to Bruce’s ears, as he has been hoping to finally get his Filipino citizenship for the past five years.

“This is truly a great honor, but really, it’s for the country,” said the excited veteran third man in the ring. “This is only the second time the award is being given to the Philippines.”

A boxer from the age of nine until his early 20’s, McTavish was originally a national basketball player for New Zealand’s and became a professional rugby player before coming to the Philippines. When he came to the country half a century ago, his first job was as a field office manager in Clark for an American car manufacturer. About a decade later, he decided to become a boxing referee, and after that, established the first travel agency in Angeles City. He also helped many big businessmen in the Angeles area establish their companies.

The WBC convention is a huge event in the world of boxing. Aside from the obvious attendees such as officials and technical personnel, past and current boxing champions were in attendance. This year’s attendees included Julio Cesar Chavez, Jeff Fenech, Gennady Golovkin, Rafael Herrera, Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield, Badou Jack, Ilunga Makabu, Erik Morales, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Donnie Nietes, Vinny Paz, Viktor Postol, Leo Santa Cruz, Shinsuke Yamanaka, Carlos Zarate, and Xiong Zhao Zhong.

Promoters and fighters’ managers and representatives who traveled to China also had Ulrich Bitner, Dejuan Blake, Christian Cherchi, Greg Cohen, Nicole Duva, Andrey Dyachev, Warren Evison, the Philippines’ Gabriel Elorde, Johnny Elorde and Liza Elorde, Viktoria Fedorova, Philippe Fondu, Liu Gang, Sean Gibbons, Jose Gomez, Harry Gorian, Ryata Kato, Joe Koizumi, Reiya Konishi, Irene Kostenko, Jun Kubo, Oleg Ladik, Rouss Laguna, Sampson Lewkowicz, Tom Loeffler, Don Majeski, Yvon Michel, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Malte Muller-Michaelis, Art Monis, Aziz Munir, Ahmed Oner, Shamir Petrosyan, Titipong Pisitwuttinan, Ricardo Rizzo, Ron Rizzo, Joseph Rotonda, Brico Santis, Nisse Sauerland, Valerii Shumak, Naris Singwancha, Shingo Suzuki, Gevorg Tatebosyan, Sergey Tatebosyan, Zika Unisova, Roman Valesiuk, Riuya Yamanaka, and Oscar Zardain present.

Bruce’s high standards of officiating come from a concern for the boxers’ safety and a blend of common sense, good timing, and unobtrusiveness. It would probably be easier to name the fighters whose bouts he hasn’t mediated. Listing the big fights alone would take up more than the space in this column. Refereeing has sent McTavish from the Philippines to England, the US, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, China, Thailand, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, and even North Korea and Siberia. In 2007, he refereed the first women’s world title fight in the infamous “Bangkok Hilton”, Klong Prem Central Prison in Thailand, and was featured in the National Geographic Channel documentary “The Black Rose of Thailand” about the winner of the bout, Siriporn Taweesuk. He also refereed several early fights of eight-time world champion Manny Pacquiao. Even though he is known to be a no-nonsense official inside the ring, his string identification with the Philippines has made it difficult for promoters to consider him to referee Pacman’s more recent fights. His passion for the country is simply so strong. And it shows in his advocacies for the children of the country.

As president of the Rotary Club of Mabalacat, Pampanga in 1983, he introduced the world’s first Polio Plus Project, the pilot program that became the template for Rotary International’s successful drive to eliminate polio throughout the globe. The club approached then First Lady Imelda Marcos, forming one of the first private entity partnerships with a government agency. Because of the lack of media attention, members literally went door to door to get parents to have their children inoculated, saving over 500 children from the debilitating disease. Bruce even brought his two daughters, Jean and Michelle, to administer drops so that the children being vaccinated would feel more at ease. Bruce and his genteel wife Carmen have bred a family and community culture of selflessness, first and most important to them is the care for the children of the country they both love.

Bruce is also the first non-Filipino director of the Metro Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the first non-Filipino president of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Pampanga, the first non-Filipino president of the St. James Cursillo, and the first non-Filipino president of the Rotary Clubs of Mabalacat and Clark Centennial. Bruce has also been the chair of the board of trustees of the Bahay Bata Foundation, a residence center for street children in Angeles City and a project of Rotary Club of Clark Centennial. The Foundation houses and schools the children, and even raises funds for their medical needs. Bruce was avid to convince Tuloy Foundation to help out with his growing foundation’s needs.



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