TV5 president Chot Reyes (left) and Gerry Penalosa.
Search starts for new boxing hero
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 19, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A pool of 20 boxers, none with more than 10 fights in their pro records, has been assembled in the quest to discover new ring heroes after tryouts involving over 80 hopefuls in Manila, Cebu and Davao.

Two-time world champion Gerry Peñalosa, now a promoter, teamed up with TV5 to produce a program called the “Ultimate Boxing Series: Kamaong Pinoy” where the fighters will display their wares in the flyweight and bantamweight divisions. The fights will be held on May 23 and July 11 at the TV5 compound in Novaliches with the airing spread out in a weekly series starting June 2. The finals will be telecast live on Aug. 25, tentatively at the SM City North EDSA Skydome with the main event an IBO flyweight championship match between Carlo Peñalosa and Mexico’s Maximino Flores.

The May 23 card will feature four bouts in the flyweight division and another four bouts in the bantamweight division. Winners will advance to the July 11 card with the survivors to slug it out in the finals on Aug. 25. It’s a knockout win-or-go-home format so there’s no chance for a second take. There will be two swing bouts in each division on May 23. The May 23 and July 11 fights will be six-rounders while the Aug. 25 finals will be eight-rounders. The fighters will stay in a dorm in Quezon City provided by Peñalosa.

Matchmaker Art Monis gathered the aspirants in the Manila tryouts while Sen. Manny Pacquiao’s assistant trainer Nonoy Neri took care of the Davao stop and Peñalosa’s brother Dodie Boy, also a two-time world champion, was in charge of Cebu. Peñalosa coordinated with GAB to make sure only the fighters with a high upside were invited to the series. The hopefuls sparred with each other before the final selection was made by Peñalosa.

Of the 20 fighters, 14 are coming in with undefeated records. Four have lost once and the last two, twice. Five are below 20 and the oldest, 28-year-old unbeaten flyweight Ian Refuela of Negros Oriental, is coming off a nearly three-year layoff. Five of the 10 pairings, including two swing bouts, in the May 23 card will pit undefeated fighters.

“Right from the start, five unbeaten fighters will lose,” said Peñalosa. “That’s the way it is. We’re looking for the next boxing superstar and we might find him in this series. The fighters know what’s at stake. They’re fighting for their future and this is a golden opportunity for them to show if they’ve got what it takes to become the next Manny Pacquiao.”

Two fighters to watch are flyweight April Jay Abne and bantamweight Lienard Sarcon, both former amateur standouts. Abne, 20, has a 1-0 record, with 1 KO while Sarcon, 19, totes a 4-0 mark, with 1 KO. The other undefeated fighters are Ruben Dadivas, 19 (5-0, 3 KOs), Joseph Bayubay, 19 (3-0-2, 2 KOs), Refuela, Welben Montere, 22 (2-0-1, 1 KO), Ronel de la Cruz, 19 (6-0-1, 4 KOs), Denmark Quibido, 23 (8-0-1, 5 KOs), Dave Barlas, 21 (4-0-1, 3 KOs), Aljum Pelesio, 20 (7-0, 5 KOs), Lenjun Retuerto, 22 (4-0, 4 KOs), Gary Tamayo, 19 (2-0, 2 KOs), John Mark Tihuk, 20 (2-0-1, 1 KO) and Luis Evander Borje, 22 (2-0, 1 KO). The bouts between unbeaten fighters are Refuela against Montere, Abne against De la Cruz, Barlas against Pelesio, Retuerto against Tamayo and Tihuk against Borje.  

TV5 president Chot Reyes and ESPN5 business unit head Lloyd Manaloto attended the launch of the series at the Midas Hotel on Roxas Boulevard last Thursday. Reyes said the network is going all out to promote the series and is excited to participate in the search for the next Filipino boxing hero. TV5 plans to bring in a reality dimension to the series by featuring the fighters’ backgrounds. They won’t only be known as gladiators in the ring but also as humans with hopes, wishes and dreams.

Peñalosa said he initially thought of adding a third division, featherweight, to the series. But it was eventually decided to begin with flyweights and bantamweights. The fights are scheduled to allow for a mandatory 45-day rest period in between bouts as stipulated by GAB.

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