SACRAMENTO, California—It’s their turn to shine and, optimistically, steal the show in the world’s gambling and entertainment mecca next month.
Three Filipino boxers—including one handpicked by Manny Pacquiao—will fight in the undercard of the pound-for-pound king’s third match with Mexican warrior Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas come Nov. 12.
The presence of Pinoy fighters in the supporting matches of a blockbuster like Pacquiao-Marquez III is more than great news. It shows the Filipino sports icon’s vast influence in the world of professional pugilism and recalls Manny’s own path to the big time.
Our wish is for Manny—among the world’s most powerful personalities in the ring and off—to wield his clout each time and help promote Pinoy fighters in all his remaining mega fights and world-class cards assembled by his promoter, boxing’s most influential impressario, Bob Arum.
As for the lucky local fighters—Lorenzo Villanueva, Dennis Laurente and Fernando Lumacad—our fervent hope is for them to shrug off the “deer in the headlights” syndrome in no time and perform to the best of their abilities against their opponents on fight night.
The expression has leaped into the ring many times in the past. Pinoy pugilists, mostly well trained but suddenly thrust into centerstage, behaved like deer caught in the beams of a car’s headlights at night, when they freeze rather than dart safely out of the vehicle’s path.
In any case, it is up to Villanueva, the undefeated WBO Oriental featherweight champion chosen by Pacquiao, Laurente, the Philippine welterweight titlist, and junior bantamweight Fernando Lumacad, to make the most of their time in the Las Vegas ring on Nov. 12.
Villanueva, with an impressive record of 21 wins, 20 of them by knockout, is a North Cotabato native and mainstay of the Braveheart stable of the province’s former governor, Manny Piñol.
The stakes are higher than personal ambition. National pride is on the line.
It is a must for these fighters to draw inspiration from Pacquiao himself, and his blazing undercard performance 11 years ago.
Manny, fighting on two weeks’ notice under a new trainer named Freddie Roach, fought with and seized the junior featherweight title from South Africa’s Lehlo Ledwaba at the MGM Grand on June 24, 2001.
Ignoring the glare of Glitter Gulch—the biggest headlight in the world—Pacquiao zeroed in on the job at hand. He broke Ledwaba’s nose in the first round and pummeled him with a flurry of shots before stopping him in the seventh round.
Ledwaba entered the ring with an impressive title defense on pay-per-view giant HBO two months earlier. Manny came to fight as the 11th-hour replacement for the injured Enrique Sanchez.
The combatants disputed the IBF junior featherweight belt as the main supporting bout on the Oscar De La Hoya-Javier Castillejo main event.
Castillejo lasted the 12-round distance with De La Hoya, but was sent to the canvas seconds before the fight ended and lost a unanimous decision and his world junior middleweight title.
Of course Pacquiao went on to face De La Hoya himself in a dream fight that turned into a nightmare for the Golden Boy in December of 2008. Pacquiao gave De La Hoya his worst beating in his 16-year career and eventually sent him into retirement.
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