Boxing history repeats itself
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - September 7, 2019 - 12:00am

In 1924, Asia’s first world boxing champion Pancho Villa had his license revoked for allegedly refusing to take a fight. He decided to return to the Philippines for vacation and fan the flames of his fandom here. Soon running low on funds from consistent overspending, he needed a fight for a quick cash infusion. He talked to his stablemate and fan Clever Sencio, who was all too willing to take on the world flyweight (112-pound) champion, against the wishes of their manager Frank Churchill. Thus, on May 2, 1925, the first all-Filipino world title fight in history was held at Wallace Field (now Rizal Park).

While many Filipino boxing fans – and even some champion boxers – seem averse to having their countrymen fight each other for world titles, it cannot be denied that this signifies the abundance of pugilistic talents in the Philippines. The country is one of only three Asian nations rated among the top 10 boxing countries in the world (with Japan and Thailand). And tonight, at the Captain Enrique Jurado Hall (more commonly known as the Philippine Navy Gym) in Fort Bonifacio, MP Promotions’ Manny Pacquiao Championship Boxing will continue the tradition of excellence, staging a world title bout between two Filipinos. Samuel “The Silent Assassin” Salva and Pedro “Rattle Snake” Taduran will clash for the vacant IBF minimumweight (105-pound) crown.

Salva, a native of Iligan City, boasts of an unblemished 17-0 record with 10 knockouts. He is currently ranked number one by the IBF in the minimumweight class. Salva was originally slated to challenge champion Deejay Kriel of South Africa on Aug. 23, but Kriel was no longer able to make weight, and vacated the title in July, electing to move up to the junior flyweight (108-pound) division. The IBF then ordered the top two contenders to fight for the vacant belt. They happened to be Salva and Taduran.

Albay native Taduran carries a fight record of 13 wins and two losses, with 10 knockouts. He previously lost his first world title shot to WBC minimumweight champion Chayaphon Moonsri by unanimous decision in August of 2018. But if it’s any consolation, the Thai was fighting at home and had a sterling record of 50-0 going into that bout.

The Salva vs. Taduran main event features a contrast of strategies. Taduran, a southpaw, has a potent jab, and dodges punches well. Salva will stand in front of an opponent to test his chin with a nasty right straight that befuddles southpaws. It will be very interesting to see who executes his game plan better. Salva seems to be a slight favorite, but Taduran is likewise fighting at home. Salva will want to get a knockout when the opportunity presents itself.

There have only been two other all-Filipino world title bouts. In May of 2018, Jerwin Ancajas defeated Jonas Sultan to retain his IBF junior bantamweight (115 lbs.) crown in an impressive fight. A few months later, the country’s longest-reigning world champion Donnie “Ahas” Nietes battled the taller, younger Aston Palicte to a draw in a showdown for his WBO junior bantamweight belt. But neither of those fights was staged in the Philippines. This is where the now-active MP Promotions makes a difference. The goal is to have four to five events staking world title fights in the country each year. Under the active leadership of Sean Gibbons, they’ve already held two world title events in three weeks.

It is suddenly curious that other boxing promotions have very rarely organized world title fights in the country. The single biggest excuse given has been the cost. But how come MP Promotions is now able to prove that it can be done, and with both regularity and frequency? There are two reasons. The lifeblood of boxing is in the matchmaking, and all the fights up and down this card are potentially blockbusters. Secondly, MP Promotions is looking beyond just the Filipino market. The fights will be seen in the UK, where they share a deep love for quality boxing. This means a bigger market, and bigger potential. This also allows for the fights themselves to be free to the public. 

Lastly, from event presentation to broadcast production, there is a palpable difference with the tired, local versions. True, there is more flash in this event. But that isn’t the point. Something as simple as the lighting, microphone and camera placement makes a huge difference. It gets the viewer closer to the action, and makes the show more visually polished.

That’s the kind of thought that world-class Filipino boxing deserves. I would rather have an international standard presentation and a monopoly of worthy Filipinos fighting any day.

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