Monday, July 15, 2013

Fair Play: A tale of three boxers

DRUG user, a human trafficking victim and a champion.

That’s what Cebu boxing has learned of the fate of three of its boxers the past few weeks and the news highlights that boxing isn’t just the sweet science. You really need more than your boxing skills to achieve greatness in the sport. A little bit of luck and the right people—not just your manager and trainer—are important, too.

First there was Mark Melligen, that once promising boxer caught in a drug bust who, in subsequent interviews with the cops, accused his former trainer of stealing his purse after his fight in Las Vegas.

I first saw Melligen fight as an amateur, during the heated boxing finals in the Southeast Asian Games in 2005. And when I saw the TV report of that drug bust, the once promising boxer covered his head, in a failed attempt to hide his identity. That was when he lashed out at everybody, his trainers and handlers for the downfall of his career.

In an interview with Rotary Club members at Cebu Country Club, Melligen showed his wit, throwing wisecracks at some members who asked all sorts of questions—including whether abstaining from sex during training helps.

There are a lot of factors in Melligen’s downward spiral, but the major one is the guy who led him to that drug den in Mandaue, who will also be the guy who’s going to get him out of the hell-hole he is now if he wants to. It’s the guy who stares at him in the mirror. Melligen’s record is still impressive, 23-3 with 16 KOs but right now, it’s the police record that matters more.

The second boxer, Czar Amonsot, like Melligen, used to be with ALA Stable until that fateful fight against Michael Katsidis, a 12-round unanimous decision loss for the interim WBO lightweight title when both boxers landed in the hospital. Amonsot, it was reported, had a blood clot in the head after the fight, hence he was advised to retire.

But he didn’t.

All boxers have that desire and of course, most boxers too rely on boxing as a living. So after a two-year and two-month hiatus, Amonsot fought again, the last four times in Australia, where he made the news lately after accusing his boxing manager of human trafficking. According to an ABS CBN report, Amonsot said he was made to live as a househelp in Australia by his manager, who faced similar accusations in the past but has denied it.

Amonsot was only one of a few Pinoy boxers under that manager’s tutelage and you have to wonder, what it must be like when you get to the ring knowing that it’s really you against everybody else because you can’t even trust your manager.

It sure makes those who love to call boxers bums and offer advice in boxing forums feel lucky that it’s not them in the ring.

Then there’s Merlito Sabillo, the unknown champion who just stopped Jorle Estrada to retain his WBO strawweight title last Saturday night. Like all boxers, Sabillo started with humble beginnings--rare is that individual born with a silver spoon who’d take up boxing as a living--and was reported to have fought in the streets.

Now, he is a champion who retained his title at home, in front of adoring kababayans

Sabillo won his crown in foreign soil and ironically, because of the rise of boxing in the Philippines, it earned scant mention. Now, he got to defend it at home, fulfilling that dream of his to be recognized by kababayans.

Mark could have had that chance, Czar certainly had it but because boxing success isn’t only about boxing skills, they’re on the outside looking in.

This puts the achievement of guys like Sabillo in a different perspective.

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