ALA Gym, one of the worldâs famous boxing sweatshops, closes down
ALA Boxing president Michael Aldeguer during a post-victory press conference for Donnie Nietes at the ABS-CBN ELJ Bldg.
ALA Gym, one of the world’s famous boxing sweatshops, closes down
Rick Olivares ( - August 19, 2020 - 11:10am

MANILA, Philippines — Gleason’s. Wild Card. Azteca. Elorde. These are some of the most famous boxing gyms in the world.

You can add ALA Gym in any sentence that talks about famous fight clubs. 

Unfortunately, the famed ALA Boxing Gym — a world-class gym one can be proud of — in Mandaue, Cebu has been knocked out. Not by rival boxers or powerhouse gyms, but the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a terse and yet emotional statement released to the media last Tuesday, August 18, the gym founded by Antonio L. Aldeguer way back in 1985, said, “After 35 years, ALA Boxing would like to say farewell and thank you from supporters from all over the world. The pandemic and the closure of our long-time broadcast partner ABS-CBN has affected the over-all situation and the future of the company. All our fighters have been released so they can look for greener pastures for their respective careers.”

And that statement is like an uppercut to the jaw; one that floors you. For not only is it important as it has produced many a world champion, but culturally, it also places the Queen City of the South, Cebu, on the sports map.

Noted Cebuano sportswriters have lamented its untimely passing.

“ALA’s exit in the boxing scene is obviously the end of an era,” waxed respected boxing scribe Dong Secuya of “It drastically changes the boxing landscape in the country, much more in Cebu. I doubt if Cebu will ever recapture its glory days in boxing now that AAL is gone. But thanks to ALA for giving us so much boxing history and entertainment. Hopefully, a new generation of fighters and fans will be inspired by ALA to continue their legacy.” 

Said Rico Navarro of The Freeman, “When the history of Philippine sports is written, one can never ignore ALA Boxing. They blazed a trail in implementing a comprehensive boxing program from its grassroots activities to pro boxing. Their Pinoy Pride series set the bar for the way world-class boxing events should be held. But most importantly, ALA Boxing produced boxers who grew up to be better people.”

Added SunStar Cebu’s Mike T. Limpag, “ALA Boxing was Cebu boxing and Cebu boxing was ALA boxing. Antonio L. Aldeguer had a heart of gold and there was a time when he didn’t even have his fighters in an ironclad contract since he treated them like family. I think it was only when the new generation of ALA fighters — Tuncao and Mayol among them — were pirated by other promoters that he started having them sign a contract.”

Director Al Neri of ABS-CBN, who worked on the Pinoy Pride series offered, "ALA Promotions is one of the most organized boxing promotions company we have worked with. From the US to Dubai, Cebu to Bohol, they’ve staged world-class boxing events that have given Filipino fight fans a lot reason to be proud of our nation.  They have not only looked after the career and welfare of their boxers, they were also always working on how they could quench the Filipino fans’ thirst for high quality fight cards both here and abroad."

The STAR’s own Bill Velasco weighed in and said, “I’ve had the pleasure of traveling and seeing the legacy of ALA Promotions develop all over the Philippines in the US as well as the Middle East. They boosted the careers of Donnie Nietes, Milan Melindo, Boom Boom Bautista, Z Gorres, and many others. They risked all on groundbreaking promotions and the Pinoy Pride series. Sadly, as the industry became more competitive, the pandemic swept the world and their television partner lost its franchise, the cost of going on rose too much. And they made some decisions that hampered their own growth.”

Prior to this announcement, ALA Gym had in their stable “King” Arthur Villanueva, Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista, Jerssel Mark “Magnifico” Magsayo, Milan “El Metodico” Melindo, Melvin “El Gringo” Jerusalem, Jason “El Niño” Pagara, Donnie “Alas” Nietes, “Prince” Albert Pagara, Jeo “Santino” Santisima, Jimrex “Executioner” Jaca, Arjan Canillas, Elmo “Bisdak” Traya, Jimmy “Popeye” Paypa, Rolito “Barili” Nengasca, AJ “Bazooka” Banal, Z “The Dream” Gorres, Jess Rhey “Wanma” Waminal and Rocky “The Road Warrior” Fuentes.

Among ALA Gym’s exploits include hosting a boxing event in Tagbiliran City in 2005 that saw over 30,000 fans in attendance to fete Bautista, Bohol’s pride. 

There was the partnership with Golden Boy Promotions in 2006 with the staging of the WBO world Title bout between Z Gorres and Mexico’s Fernando Montiel that ended in a shocking and controversial split decision that saw the latter come away with the victory.

ALA Gym and Golden Boy Productions once more teamed up in the Boxing World Cup between the Mexico and the Philippines at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, California. The Philippine fighters — Diosdado Gabi, Michael Domingo, AJ Banal, Z Gorres, Gerry Peñalosa and Rey Bautista — defeated their Mexican counterparts, 5-1.

ALA staged another jam-packed local event at the Cebu Coliseum although AJ Banal though lost to Panamanian fighter, Rafael Concepcion via 10th round knockout. 

Along with ABS-CBN, ALA put together Pinoy Pride, the longest and most successful boxing series on television.

Nietes, an ALA Gym product, is only the third Filipino to be listed by The Ring magazine in their best pound-for-pound fighters. The other two are Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire. 

I first met Tony Aldeguer (in his gym in Cebu I must say) while working for Solar Sports and we showed some of his fighters on our broadcast. I admired his facilities and loved the vibe that emanated from his fight club. When we buckled down for work, Aldeguer balked at being interviewed for television as he pushed his fighters to take the spotlight. Eventually, he acquiesced to an interview for the boxing special we made.

“Our mission,” he said then, “was to show that the Filipino boxer is world-class. And that boxing whether for the sport in Cebu or for the Philippines is world-class.”

He made good on his word.

And as painful as it is, it is hard saying goodbye to an institution that was definitely… world-class.

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