Defeat, scandals and redemption

Dominic Menor, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 24 2017 01:30 PM | Updated as of Dec 24 2017 01:35 PM

Every year in sports is remembered for its stories of success and failure. What makes 2017 stand out from others is how it produced some of the most dramatic storylines in recent memory. 

In the loss column, there's a controversial decision leading to a bloody Manny Pacquiao loss (which in turn raised serious questions about his future in the ring), the commissioner of the country's biggest sports league forced to resign, and the shocking knockout defeat of arguably the most celebrated Pinoy MMA star in Eduard Folayang.

Some victories assuaged the bitter taste left by those unfortunate events, such as Gilas Pilipinas capping an uneven year with two wins in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers, other Pinoy boxers bringing home world titles, and local basketball securing joint hosting rights to the 2023 World Cup.

There are several more local sports narratives worth mentioning, but the following ones compiled by ABS-CBN News are categorized as the most read and most talked about of the past 12 months. 

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas

It was a roller-coaster of a year for the country’s favorite national sports team, Gilas Pilipinas, and the people running it. There were big losses (FIBA Asia Cup, FIBA Asia Champions Cup and the Jones Cup) and important wins (the SEA Games, the SEABA tournament and the first window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers).

The group’s crowning glory didn’t come on the court, though; it happened in Geneva in early December when the national federation snared the joint hosting rights for the 2023 World Cup. FIBA.com

Manny Pacquiao vs Jeff Horn

It went 12 rounds, had lots of drama, action and blood. Too bad, an awful decision tarnished one of the most brutal fights in Pacquiao’s career.

The fight ended with Horn snatching the world welterweight title and the question remains, did we see Pacquiao lace up his gloves for the last time? Reuters

Kiefer Ravena

Any athlete his age would’ve been rocked by an issue as sordid as the one Ravena had to face in April. But he dealt with it swiftly, apologized and moved on.

After that episode and months of trying his luck in the US basketball circuit, he finally settled in the country to assume his proper, predestined place in domestic hoopdom.

This year, he won a record fourth gold medal in the SEA Games, was called up to the top-level Gilas team and contributed to a 2-0 start in the World Cup qualifiers, and was chosen No. 2 in the PBA draft. Reuters

Philippine Basketball Association

It was like any other season for Asia’s oldest professional basketball league, until the rookie draft happened.

Everybody knows the story by now. The questionable Kia-San Miguel Beer trade. Fans become livid. Teams go on a cold war. Commissioner Chito Narvasa resigns.

Before that issue blew up, the league was basking in the glow of the Barangay Ginebra-Meralco finals in the Governors’ Cup that blew attendance records out of the water. Ginebra won the title, as San Miguel Beer took home the crowns in the Philippine Cup and the Commissioner’s Cup. Jonathan Cellona, Richard Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Southeast Asian Games

There was an uneasy air that permeated about the sports community when the medal prediction for the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games was made public—50 golds, without batting an eyelash. When the competition was done, the Philippines bagged only 23.

Bright spots were plenty and there was no shortage of inspirational stories, sure, but when a country’s performance is gauged by how many medals it can collectively bring home, the Philippines failed in its mission. Cue the overwrought op-ed title here — it’s back to the drawing board for local sports officials again.

College sports

In the UAAP, the Ateneo Blue Eagles may have missed out on a historic sweep of the elimination round, but they pulled off the more important feat — winning the men’s basketball crown over the De La Salle Green Archers. It was revenge of sorts for Ateneo, whose Lady Eagles lost to the Lady Archers in women’s volleyball in May.

In the NCAA, the San Beda Red Lions defied the odds to overcome the 18-0 Lyceum of the Philippines Pirates to win the men’s basketball title. In women’s volleyball, the Arellano Lady Chiefs bucked a thrice-to-beat handicap in the finals to beat the San Sebastian College Lady Stags for the championship. Josh Albelda, ABS-CBN Sports, George Calvelo, Jonathan Cellona, Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Pinoy Pride

Tony Aldeguer’s stable of fighters, the famed ALA Boxing, gave the country two world champions this year. Donnie Nietes (pictured left) added a third world title to his resum√©, by winning the flyweight belt. Milan Milando (center) followed suit, defeating Japan’s Akira Yaegashi by TKO for his first world championship and later successfully defending it against South Africa’s Hekkie Budler, a bloody bout that went the full 12 rounds. Promising prospect Mark Magsayo (right) also racked up victories. Dominic Menor, ABS-CBN News, Edito Villamor's Facebook

Mixed martial arts

It was a tale of two different years for Team Lakay. The country’s flagship MMA crew picked up where it left off in 2016, stringing together 6 wins in a row in ONE main-card bouts to start 2017. That dominance included a 4-0 score in a ONE event held in Manila in April, led by Eduard Folayang’s title defense versus Malaysia’s Ev Ting.

But things unraveled for Lakay when ONE returned to Manila in November, as the hometown crowd witnessed one of the most savage results in recent MMA memory — Eduard Folayang (pictured) losing via KO to Australia’s Martin Nguyen.

The bright spots for the sport were delivered by Lakay’s Kevin Belingon, who went 3-0 this year, and Rolando Dy, son of former world boxing champion Rolando Navarrete, who wrote one of the most moving feel-good stories in sports in general this year. One Championship

Women’s volleyball

The Philippines played host to the Asian championship in August, where it finished eighth. In the Southeast Asian Games, the country settled for fourth after losing 3-0 to Thailand in the semifinals and 3-1 to Vietnam in the battle for the third.

In domestic competition, Pocari (Reinforced Conference), BaliPure (Open) and National University (Collegiate) won titles in the inaugural Premier Volleyball League. In the Philippine Superliga, Petron (All-Filipino), F2 Logistics (Grand Prix) and Cignal HD Spikers (Invitational, co-champion) finished on top. Richard Esguerra, ABS-CBN Sports


The year saw the passing of sports broadcasting trailblazer Carlos “Bobong” Velez (pictured), whose vision served as a blueprint for how local basketball is covered on TV today. Other sports media personalities whom the industry lost were Benjie Castro (radio) and Beth Celis (print journalism).

Basketball said goodbye to Olympian and former PBA pro Elias Tolentino, as well as former PBA and collegiate coach Adriano “Bong” Go, PBA pioneer and former San Miguel Beer player Norberto Rivera, and former Ginebra player Cris Bolado.

Olympic shooter Mariano “Tom” Ong, the father of multiple international and domestic champion Nathaniel “Tac” Padilla, and former Philippine Sports Commission chairman and local amateur boxing patriarch Gemiliano “Mel” Lopez also passed away in 2017.

For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.

Read our 2017 Yearend specials