WBC cites Pinoy ‘Heroes of Humanity’
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - August 10, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The World Boxing Council (WBC) paid tribute to Sen. Manny Pacquiao, Games and Amusements Board chairman Baham Mitra, referee Bruce McTavish, referee Robert Bridges and lightweight contender Mercito Gesta as “Heroes of Humanity” for their “acts of selfless heroism in these challenging times” in a three-month process of selection that ended last July 31.

WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman and WBC international secretary/WBC Cares chairperson Jill Diamond kicked off the nominations by choosing Pacquiao, WBC/WBO superlightweight champion Jose Carlos Ramirez, former WBA/IBF superlightweight titlist Amir Khan, former WBC superbantamweight, WBC featherweight, WBC superfeatherweight and WBC superlightweight ruler Erik Morales and undefeated WBC-NABF female lightflyweight queen Kim Clavel as the initial awardees last April. Pacquiao, 41, was cited for his “relentless support” for his countrymen. Clavel, a Canadian, was recognized for taking care of COVID-19 patients and the elderly as a nurse in Montreal.

The WBC gave certificates of recognition and medals to the awardees. The medals were inscribed with the words “Learn From Yesterday, Live For Today, Hope For Tomorrow” and “Thank You For Keeping The World Safe – COVID-19 2020 Hero Of The World.” There were over 220 awardees from all over the world, including Italy, Spain, USA, UK, Thailand, Albania, Russia, Ireland, Chile, Mexico and Egypt.

“This action was inspired by world champions globally but none better or more giving than Sen. Manny Pacquiao,” said Diamond. “He not only received a medal of humanity but our love and thanks and those of his countrymen. Sen. Pacquiao provides food, money and even buses for those in need. There is no greater hero and role model. He is not only a world champion but a champion of the world.”

Mitra said Pacquiao was the inspiration for the award. “The WBC recognized gallant efforts of people in boxing during this pandemic,” he said. “Giving PPEs, amounting to millions of pesos, to policemen and frontliners plus providing buses very early is surely a big gallant effort by Sen. Manny who is and will always be at the top of this list of heroes.”

Mitra, 50, was also cited. “The WBC heard of the money that GAB requested and was given by DSWD to each boxer in Luzon and nearby areas,” he said. “Of the total of 1,524 boxers, 536 were given funds. There were 336 beneficiaries from NCR who received cash assistance of P5,000. There were 116 from outside NCR who received the same amount. There were 84 who received P3,000 each. A total of 846 are scheduled for payout. The funds were given with a box of food, rice and grocery goods by DSWD.”

McTavish, 79, was surprised by the award. For 73 days up to May 31, McTavish’s family organized a daily meal delivery to the frontliners of the public Angeles City hospital. “Even our three grandchildren were happy to help in the food preparation, sometimes done at our house which was the commissary and other days at any of my siblings,” said McTavish’s wife Carmen. “We also helped some barangays surrounding Clark with many residents who are unemployed daily wage-earners. Bruce is used to walking to keep fit 6-8 kilometers a day so he’s frustrated when he’s unable to do so like now due to the barangay lockdown.”

McTavish, a naturalized Filipino from New Zealand, was also cited by Diamond for “his charitable acts with the Rotary Club and the Bahay Bata Foundation residence center for streetchildren where he is the chairman of the Board of Trustees in Angeles City.” McTavish is still active as a referee and judge with over 1,000 fights and more than 150 world title bouts in his resume.

Bridges, 46, is an American-Japanese referee and judge living in Angat, Bulacan with his Filipina wife July Abestro. He was born in Japan and moved to the US when he was five. After serving 2 1/2 years in Iraq with the US Navy, Bridges relocated to Angat in 2007. He has been a boxing judge since 2014 and a referee since 2017. During this pandemic, Bridges has spearheaded relief operations to deliver food bundles to the less fortunate in Angat. “I’m so highly honored,” said Bridges. “I dedicate this award to my family and friends who are passionate about sharing their blessings with others. Congratulations to the thousands of heroes out there who also deserve recognition for their love and dedication for keeping us safe and assisting those in need.”

Gesta, 32, was among several fighters who were cited. The others included Tyson Fury, Jaime Mungia, Miguel Cotto, Mikey Garcia, Saul Alvarez and Floyd Mayweather Jr. The San Diego-based Cebu boxer has partnered with sponsors to give food stuff to frontliners, first responders and the needy at Kaiser Permanente Irvine, Banfield Pet Hospital in La Jolla, Kaiser Permanente Medical Offices in Bonita and the Gateway Medical Group of San Diego. Gesta was set to face undefeated Hector Tanajara in Indio, California, last July 24 but backed out the day before the weigh-in because of food poisoning. Gesta, a one-time world title challenger, has a record of 32-3-3, with 17 KOs.

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