Gone too soon

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 29, 2020 - 12:00am

Last month, my good friend Rico Navarro texted to invite me for a one-on-one chat on his weekly online show “Bleacher Talk Goes Live” and I readily accepted. Rico and I go back a long way. I remember him as a ring announcer doing Cebu fights decades ago. Like Michael Buffer with his “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble” or Jimmy Lennon with his “It’s Showtime,” Rico had his own signature call, “Here We Go.”

But more than being a ring announcer, Rico was known for his love of sports, not just boxing but all sports. He wrote an insightful column “Bleacher Talk” in The Freeman and did articles, too. One of his newspaper stories was published in The Freeman last Sept. 23 and it was about something we talked about on his show. The story was entitled “The Dean Appeals – No To Commercialism In College Sports.”  Rico wrote, “Speaking from the heart and emotionally expressing his thoughts, he (Henson) said that emphasis must be made on the fact that college athletes are primarily student athletes but some are thinking that their being athletes surpasses their obligation of being students.”

Rico’s show was an hour long but we extended to 1 1/2 hours because there was just so much to talk about. We discussed the NBA playoffs, the PBA bubble and college sports. Because of Rico’s knowledge of sports, it wasn’t so much an interview as an exchange of ideas. When it ended, we realized we hadn’t even touched on the fight game and he promised to do a Part Two so we could discuss the future of Philippine boxing, the effects of the pandemic on Filipino world champions Sen. Manny Pacquiao, Jerwin Ancajas, Johnriel Casimero and Pedro Taduran, the possibility of Nonito Donaire becoming a world titleholder again and lots more. I figured even a Part Three wouldn’t cover everything we could talk about. I also remember Rico working as vice president of Omega Sports and reaching out to promote events where he was involved.

When I learned that Rico passed away last Tuesday, I was shocked. He was 53 with still so much to live for. Rico suffered a heart attack while biking. It was a loss that will reverberate for a long, long time. Rico didn’t just host “Bleacher Talk Goes Live” but also “Bida BEST Live” with Julie Amos for the BEST Center Sports and “Idol Talk” for the MVP Sports Foundation Youth Basketball League, formerly the Cebu Youth Basketball League which he founded. He was athletic director of the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu and a recent 10-year awardee. A La Salle Toledo City graduate, Rico was SBP’s Region 7 director.

Philboxing.com founder Dong Secuya said: “It is with great sadness to hear the sudden demise of our friend Rico, may the Lord take care of him…Rico was a very amiable guy who dedicated his life to sports and was a past president of the Sportswriters Association of Cebu.” Cebu sports patron Bidoy Aldeguer said Rico was “a good guy” and his death is “a big loss to Cebu sports.” Rico’s impact on sports as an influencer and organizer was significant. He was well-loved by everyone and I join the sports community in mourning his passing. Rico wasn’t just a colleague but also a friend whose passion for sports was an inspiration. Rest in peace, Rico.

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