Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fair Play: World champions from Cebu

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Dec. 31 edition)
WHILE some are quick to heap praises on Manny Pacquiao for his comeback win against Brandon Rios--overlooking the fact that Rios was tailor-made to be a comeback win for Pacquiao--another Pinoy boxer gets largely ignored in the year-end stories coming out from mainstream and news websites.

And I’m talking about Donnie Nietes, who has been a champion since he beat Pornsawan Porpramook on Sept. 30, 2007 for the WBO minimumweight crown. He added the WBO light flyweight crown in 2011 and had two contrasting resuls this year. He kept the belt thanks to a draw against the tough Moises Fuentes last March and took Sammy Gutierrez
to school on his way to a three-round knockout.

Sure, Manny Pacquiao is Manny Pacquiao, but this dude has been a champion for six years and three months, 13 months short of the record of the great Flash Elorde, who was a champion for seven years and two months.

Will Donnie break Elorde’s reign 13 months from now? I hope so and when that happens, I hope, this time, Donnie’s achievement won’t be buried in the fancy results of the other Pinoy boxers.

Here’s a curious fact that the casual fan may not know. As of now, there are only three world champions in boxing--those international, continental, or what-have-you belts don’t count--and they are all based in Cebu. There’s Donnie of course and there’s Merlito Sabillo and Johneil Casimero, who got into the Pinoy boxing fans’ consciousness after a riot-marred fight in Argentina.

Sabillo won the interim WBO minimumweight crown--which Nietes vacated in 2011--with an eighth-round stoppage of Luis dela Rosa on March 9 in Colombia and kept it after a ninth round knockout of Jorle Estrada on July 13 in Manila. Like Donnie, he also had a testy fight and kept his crown after a draw with the undefeated Carlos Buitrago just last Nov. 30 at the Araneta Coliseum.

Casimero also had two defenses this year, scoring a unanimous decision over Luis Rios in Panama on March 16, and stopping Felipe Salguero in the 11th round last Oct. 26 to keep his IBF light flyweight crown.

Aside from boxing, Cebu also had other world champions in taekwondo and billiards.

The current Sportswriters Association of Cebu Athlete of the Year awardee Mikaela Calamba retained her women’s individual freestyle event in the 8th World Taekwondo Federation Poomsae championships last Nov. 3 and then teamed up with Cebuana Rinna Babanto and Jocel Ninobla to win the team 17-under event.

That’s two world titles in a day’s work for Cebu, validating the hard work the boys and girls of Team Cebu City under Tony del Prado had done all these years. Calamba won her first crown in 2012, and if anybody thought that was a fluke, this year’s twin titles showed that it wasn’t and Cebu taekwondo is truly world class.

And of course, there’s Rubilen Amit of Mandaue City, who became a two-time world champion after beating Kelly Fisher in the Women’s World 10-Ball finals to reclaim the crown she first won in 2009.

Aside from our world champions, Cebu-based organizers also did themselves proud this year. The Cebu Football Association set the bar for provincial FAs with the hosting of the AFC Presidents’ Cup and hosting of several AFC coaching seminars in Cebu. There are so many seminars that folks are beginning to forget the fact that just a few years ago, the Philippines would be lucky to have one.

If you have sportswriters who’ve seen several SEAG opening ceremonies abroad heaping praises on you, then you know you’ve done a great job.

Ricky Ballesteros and his team in the Milo Little Olympics opening ceremony certainly did a great job and I saw a clip of that epic lighting ceremony and it rivals the archer that lit the flam in the Barcelona Olympics.

There’s also the Davis Cup hosting of Lapu-Lapu City, the Dancesport sa Sugbo championships and of course, the Ironman and Xterra events—all world class.

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