Manny Pacquiao (fifth from left) poses with newly crowned PBF super featherweight champion Criztian Pitt Laurente (fourth from left) while former two-division world champion Gerry Penalosa (left) and MP Promotions chief Sean Gibbons (right) look on.
Mandaluyong Mayor Ben Abalos (left) and referee Danrex Tapdasan (right) raises the hands of new-minted PBF super featherweight champ Criztian Pitt Laurente in victory.
JR Magboo (right) is counted out judge Danrex Tapdasan while Criztian Pitt Laurente (left) looks on from a neutral corner.
WHILE there were two main events in the return of the popular boxing program “Blow by Blow” Sunday night at the packed and musty Mandaluyong City College gym, everyone present knew without a doubt who was the real star of the show.
It was no other than Manny Pacquiao, of course, whose meteoric rise to global sports stardom began humbly with the same TV boxing show that was now making a comeback through his efforts with the help of Mayor Ben Abalos, an avid boxing fan and early supporter of the Pinoy ring icon.
Still looking sharp and spry at 88, Abalos made the city of Mandaluyong the “home” of “Blow by Blow” when it was originally revived by the Rod Nazario, Pacquiao’s first promoter, Moy Lainez, now both deceased, and Lito Mondejar, who now tends to a farm in Kidapawan, North Cotabato.
Lainez and Mondejar put up the L&M Gym – the L and M standing for their respective initials – in Sampaloc, Manila where Pacman first learned his ring craft and was part of its stable.
“Maraming, maraming salamat kay Mayor Abalos sa patuloy na kanyang supporter mula noon at hanggang ngayon. Sa kanyang support ng ‘Blow by Blow,’ nakakapag-produce ng Pilipinas ng isang Manny Pacquiao,” the former eight-time world division champ told the animated crowd, who chanted “Manny, Manny!” as he spoke atop the ring.
The admiration was mutual, with Abalos saying on the same stage: “Manny Pacquiao put the Philippines on the world boxing by being an eight-division world champion. When Pacquiao told me ‘I cannot forget my beginnings,’ I was more than willing to support his efforts to revive ‘Blow by Blow’.
“Hindi niya tinalikuran kung saan siya galing. Hindi niya tinalikuran kung ano at sino ang gumawa sa kanya.”
One who could not help get misty-eyed was ring announcer Bobby Mondejar, who was also the original “Blow by Blow” barker that was revived by his father, Nazario and Lainez.
“I really feel great and I am so happy na ako rin ang kinuha nila kasi sabi nila (Pacquiao and Abalos) na ako ang official ring announcer ng ‘Blow by Blow,” said Mondejar, 64, who looked every inch like his 87-year-old dad. “This was hair-raising experience for me to be here.”
He said that the elder Mondejar did not like to stay in Manila due to the traffic and was content to look after his farm and wait when the boxing show is held in Mindanao.
Also gratified to with the “Blow by Blow” revival was former two-division world champion Gerry Penalosa, who is the matchmaker of the program and also a good friend of Pacman.
“Malaking bagay ang pagbabalik ng ‘Blow by Blow’ kasi maraming madi-discover na Filipino boxers. Kung may talent ka, para sa kanila ito. (The return of ‘Blow by Blow’ is huge because many promising Filipino boxer will get discovered. If you have talent, this is for them),” noted Penalosa.
He recalled being “discovered’ also on the same boxing program so was pleased to learn that the former fighting lawmaker was reviving it.
“Maraming na-discover ng ‘Blow by Blow.’ Kasama na ko run, like Manny, we were a product of the show. (Many were discovered by ‘Blow by Blow.’ Myself included, and, like Manny we were a product of the show,” Penalosa said.
Veteran international referee-judge Ver Abainza, who watched the fight at ringside and kept a personal score of the matches, said, ‘this is good for Philippine boxing in discovering new talent. What Manny did was a great help in reviving the sport.”
Abainza, who has refereed and judged in the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association bouts, remembered judging a youthful Pacquiao in some of his matches on the show, resulting in a friendship that lasts to this day.
“Dinadala niya ako ni Manny sa mga laban niya sa Las Vegas. Mabait at galante siya. (Manny would bring me to some of his fights to Las Vegas. He is a kind and generous friend,” he recalled.
Pacquiao, who came with marker ready and gallantly obliged autographing all the gear brought to him by his aides even as the fights progressed, said that he was in the show for the long haul.
“Happy at excited ako na mapagpatuloy ng ‘Blow by Blow’ na matagal na nawala at kung saan ako sumikat bilang boksingero. (I am happy and excited to resume ‘Blow by Blow’ after it was gone for a long tie and were I became famous as a boxer.) Boxing is still the best,” he said.
“Ito’y isang long term program. Dito ako sumikat at dapat suportahan para makahanap muli ng boksingero na maaring makasunod sa yapak natin sa susunod na panahon (This is a long term program. That we should support so we can discover boxers who can follow my footsteps in the future),” he added.
While the crowd and participants – boxers, coaches, officials alike – reveled in the presence of boxing greatness, the results of the bouts were generally predictable, with the exception of the match between uneaten Criztian PItt Laurente and veteran JR Magboo in their clash for the vacant Philippine Boxing Federation super featherweight crown.
Laurente, 22, needed only 45 seconds in the first round and one punch –a crushing right cross that decked Magboo, 32, for good – in capturing the 130-pound crown.
The pride of General Santos City, Pacquiao’s hometown, chalked up his 11th straight win, claiming Magboo as his seventh knockout victim, while his beaten rival took his 8th loss, the fifth in a row, against 18 wins and two draws.
Impressed by Laurente’s performance, Abalos vowed to set him up with a top South Korean fighter in the future.
The other main event was a snorer, with Engrique Magsalin beating Michael Mendoza by unanimous decision, but did not take the PBF super flyweight title for exceeding the 115-pound weight limit by three pounds at the official weigh-in.
Other than that, judging from the crowd reception and Pacquiao grinning from ear to ear throughout the card, the return of “Blow by Blow” promises to be a big winner and a huge boost for local pro boxing.