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Omega back in spotlight

HIMSOG NGA KARAYURAN - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - December 30, 2016 - 12:00am

Sports commentator and ring announcer Rico Navarro of Cebu recently sent an email detailing the return of Omega Pro Sports as a prominent player in the country’s sports landscape. That’s welcome news particularly as back in the ‘80s, Omega made waves as the backer of the Mama’s Love basketball team in the PABL with Jojo Lastimosa leading the charge for the Cebu squad. Mama’s Love’s other stars included Yves Dignadice, Zaldy Realubit, Larry Villanil, Elmer Cabahug, Danny Lastimosa, Calvin Tuadles, RicRic Marata and Jerry Aratan.

Omega Pro Sports is behind the boxing series “Who’s Next” which showcases the talents of rising stars. It’s similar in concept to the “Pinoy Pride” series but the ALA Boxing program features fighters at a higher level of development.  Omega Pro Sports is the boxing arm of the International Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the maker of Omega Pain Killer, Casino Rubbing Alcohol, Mama’s Love and other personal hygiene products.

“We’re now in the process of re-engineering the sports programs of the company with boxing taking the lead and basketball following suit,” said Navarro who is in Omega Pro Sports’ management team.

“Who’s Next” got off the ground early this year with the Hyundai Tucson as main sponsor. The second “Who’s Next” was aired on GMA News TV and the third will also be shown on the same channel. The fourth “Who’s Next” will be staged in the first quarter of the coming year.

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“Partnering with Hyundai and GMA were blessings for the program for which we’re very grateful,” said Omega Pro Sports president Paulo Castillo. “This will make us only more committed to come up with excellent events and not just in boxing. We’re looking forward to holding more events in 2017.”

Castillo said 2016 was a productive year for Omega Pro Sports as it marked the relaunch of the Omega Boxing Gym and the International Pharmaceuticals’ sports program. “We’re very thankful for what happened in 2016 when we relaunched the IPI boxing program and produced our current regional champions,” he said. “More importantly, we laid the groundwork for bigger projects in the future. It has paved the way for bigger things to come.”

On tap to headline Omega Pro Sports’ fourth edition of “Who’s Next” are WBO Oriental superbantamweight champion Jack (Sparrow) Tepora of Cebu City and WBF Asia Pacific bantamweight titlist Kenny (Big Heart) Demecillo of Iligan City. Two other hot prospects in the Omega camp are undefeated lightflyweight southpaws Christian Araneta and Mark Anthony Barriga.

Tepora, 23, is ranked No. 13 by the WBO in the 122-pound division. Tepora’s record is 19-0, with 14 KOs, including seven in the first round. One of his first round KO victims was former PABA lightflyweight king Marvin Tampus. Last March, Tepora halted Jason Tinampay in the fifth round to claim the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Youth superbantamweight throne. Four months later, he retained the crown via a first round stoppage of Bryan Capangpangan who took four trips to the canvas in the massacre.

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Last Dec. 2, Tepora was back in the ring to stop Indonesia’s Galih Susanto in the fifth round to capture the vacant WBO Oriental superbantamweight diadem in Mandaue. Susanto was decked once in the third and twice in the fifth. No doubt, Tepora is going places. He packs a lot of power in his hands and that’s a distinct advantage on the global stage.

Demecillo, 24, is unbeaten in his last five outings. In December last year, he held former IBO superflyweight champion Edrin Dapudong to a split draw in Davao City. Demecillo has a 12-3-2 record, with 7 KOs, and is a former WBA Oceania bantamweight champion. Since halting Daryl Basadre to annex the vacant WBF Asia Pacific bantamweight crown in General Santos City in September last year, Demecillo has retained his title thrice.

Araneta, 21, boasts a 13-0 record, with 11 KOs and only Ryan Tampus and Jessie Suacasa have survived the distance with the hard-hitting 5-4 brawler known as The Bomb.  Barriga, 23, was the country’s sole boxing representative at the 2012 London Olympics and has a 3-0 record, with no KO. He outpointed Melvin Mananquil in his debut then decisioned Powell Balaba and early this month, repulsed Rodel Kirk Pelenio on a fifth round technical verdict. The bout against Pelenio was stopped after referee Tony Pesos ruled Barriga unfit to continue with a cut on the right eyelid inflicted by an accidental headbutt. Pesos called in the scorecards to settle the outcome.

In the coming “Who’s Next,” Navarro said Tepora and Demecillo will defend their titles while Araneta will vie for a WBO regional championship. As Omega Pro Sports is well-positioned in boxing, a return to basketball with a swashbuckling Cebu cast should come sooner than later. Perhaps, a sortie in the PBA D-League could be a first step to bring Omega Pro Sports back into the major basketball mainstream.

RICO NAVARRO
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