‘Bunso’ to carry Elorde flag
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - August 23, 2019 - 12:00am

Ronel Sumalpong, 22, is the youngest of five children and older brother Rolly, 25, is the only other fighter in the family. Boxing is the brothers’ way to battle poverty. Rolly started his ring career on a high note, going undefeated in his first 10 outings but has now won only twice in his last six bouts.

Ronel has an 8-1-1 record, with 5 KOs and is lined up to face April Jay Abne for the Ultimate Boxing Series (UBS) flyweight title at the TV5 Studios in Novaliches this Sunday. For Ronel, losing isn’t an option. He survived the tryouts in Manila conducted by matchmaker Art Monis to join a select pool of 20 fighters vying for honors in promoter Gerry Peñalosa’s reality TV series. In all, over 100 hopefuls showed up for tryouts in Manila, Cebu and Davao. Ronel says he didn’t reach this far only to lose.

Ronel works out of Bebot Elorde’s stable in Parañaque and veteran trainer Artcher Villamor makes sure he’s in tip-top shape. He’s inspired by stablemates Joe Noynay and Jun Blazo, both climbing up the ratings. For Ronel, it’s an honor to fight under the Elorde banner and he won’t let the fabled family name down.

The stain in Ronel’s record was a loss by a majority six-round decision to Justine Darap last year. He blames himself for the setback because of lack of preparation. Ronel has since bounced back to score four wins and post one draw. The majority six-round draw was with Joseph Bayubay and he nearly lost. Ronel went down in the last round and was lucky to escape with a draw.

“Tinamaan ako ng straight,” recalls Ronel. “Tumayo naman ako kaagad. Off-balance lang kasi. Pero masama ang pakiramdam ko bago lumaban. Mayroon akong nakain o nainom na hindi maganda. Labas pasok ako sa banyo. Nakabawi naman ako sa susunod na tatlong laban.”  Two of Ronel’s next three fights were wins on points over Ruben Dadivas and Ian Refuela in the UBS tournament to advance him to the final.

Against Abne, Ronel brings a lot of experience to the table. Ronel has figured in four four-rounders and six six-rounders so far while Abne is entering only his fourth fight as a pro. Abne, 20, had a sensational debut in halting Marvin Laping in the first round, scoring three knockdowns in the process, last February. Then, the former amateur standout from the Wild Boxing Gym in Cebu posted two straight wins in the UBS, dropping Ronel de la Cruz once enroute to an easy decision and outpointing Bayubay, the same fighter who floored Ronel last year.

Abne is the eighth of 13 children. His father Luciano, 61, is a driver and car washer while his mother Alicia, 58, is a fruit vendor. He’s one of six boxers in Englishman John Wild’s stable. Wild comes and goes from the UK and has a Filipina wife Josel. When Abne was 12, trainer Winnie Galero taught him how to box and as he got better, former WBF welterweight champion Dondon Sultan took over the polishing chores.

More a technician than a brawler, Abne says he patterns his style after his idols Gerry and Dave Peñalosa with the heart of Sen. Manny Pacquiao. For Abne, it’s all about a combination of power, quickness and timing. “More experienced daw si Sumalpong pero malawak din ang experience ko sa amateur,” says Abne. “Nahirapan siya kay Bayubay na tinalo ko. Paramirahan ito ng suntok. Gagawin ko ang lahat para manalo – ilag, distansya, sabayan. Pag sumuntok siya ng isa, susuklian ko ng tatlo.” Abne’s record is 3-0, with 1 KO.

The Sumalpong-Abne fight is one of two UBS finals to be settled on Sunday. The other pits Aljum Pelesio and Lienard Sarcon for the UBS bantamweight title. In the main event, Carlo Peñalosa takes on Mexico’s Maximino Flores for the vacant IBO flyweight crown. The show starts at 12 noon and is free to the public.

RONEL SUMALPONG
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