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Filipino Warriors, Names to Remember by Matt McGrain cont.

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  • Filipino Warriors, Names to Remember by Matt McGrain cont.

    Nonito Donaire, Aged 40, Bantamweight, 42-7, Talibon, Bohol
    The evergreen Nonito Donaire at forty years old remains the pre-eminent daddy of Filipino boxing in the absence of Manny Pacquiao. Replacing Manny is all but impossible; it is this man the new generation must seek to usurp.

    Even at an age where most famous fighters are retired and trying to find themselves a lucrative media gig, Donaire will take some usurping. Of the two men who have a chance to try directly, Reymart Gaballo has already failed and Vincent Astrolabio would be a slender underdog at best. As for replacing him as a figurehead, what will it take? Specifically, multiple straps at multiple weights in multiple decades. It is fair to say it will take some doing.

    Everyone knows what Donaire does well. He is an organised puncher with power and quickness of thought. Everyone know what his vulnerabilities are – he can be outmonstered, outsped and outworked but you better be elite in the category you decide to pursue him in because he is capable of defeating all but the very best in each and every one of those categories. As he slips in terms of speed he becomes more vulnerable to the unorthodox attacks that always upset his rhythm but Naoya Inoue himself had to place very close attention to get over the line against him in 2019. That he butchered Donaire in a 2022 rematch is alarming testimony to Donaire’s slippage.
    He is not quite done though. The diminutive Mexican bantamweight Alejandro Santiago seems to be next for Donaire, and note that the way the WBC is shaping up, they might be mandating a Donaire-Gaballo rematch at the year’s end.

    Reggie Suganob, Aged 25, Light Flyweight, 13-0, Dauis, Bohol
    Reggie Suganob shot to relevancy last month with a technical decision over Topples Vicelles. Vicelles was heavily favoured to win this fight and Reggie was very much in control of the contest at the time of it stoppage for a cut caused by an accidental headclash. Suganob had therefore supplanted his countryman in the 108lb rankings, near the bottom of the ten but potentially on the rise.

    A clean-cut look compliments his clean-cut style which is boxed along straight lines. He punishes mistakes which is a wonderful skill for an inexperienced fighter to have and one he is certainly going to need in his next fight, which is likely to be against the South African Sivenathi Nontshing. Nontshing is no more experienced than Suganob in terms of contests, but he’s been fighting for longer at a higher level for his 11-0 than Suganob has. The Filipino has stepped into a ring at the second class just once, and that was against Vicelles; he’s never met true first class opposition.

    That does not mean these two will not produce a high-class fight. At the time of writing they are in talks but at 108lbs, most of the time, the participants will take a chance on potential purse bids. Nontshing, who is handled in part by Matchroom Boxing, will likely have the promotional clout to win that argument although such a result is as likely to see the two boxing as chief support on a UK undercard as it is a main event in Africa. Either way that fight, should it come off, will be worth catching, and should Suganob win it, it would make him one of the world’s premier light-flyweights.

    Rene Mark Cuarto, Aged 26, Minimumweight, 21-3-2, Jose Dalman, Zamboanga del Norte
    Rene Mark Cuarto is nearer the bottom of his divisional top ten than the top, in part due to his July 2022 loss to Daniel Valladares. Valladares took a decision after a raucous, fun twelve that saw head-clashes, cuts, wild exchanges and a deduction for Cuarto for tape repeatedly coming lose on the gloves, something I have never even heard of before. The referee was put upon though, and Cuarto was already on a last warning for roughhousing and for ignoring his commands.

    Cuarto had a legitimate knockdown incorrectly ruled a slip, however, so was arguably two points to the bad, which might have been enough to rescue the draw dependent upon how Daniel Sandoval scored the eighth round. The closeness of what was a controversial battle meant Cuarto held onto his ranking which he puts on the line once again this April 16th out in Japan against Ginjiro Shigeoka in what is likely to be yet another quality encounter boxed by one of the men on this list.

    Shigeoka is only 8-0 but he, too, is ranked near the bottom of the 105lb division and actually matched Daniel Valladares himself last time out. Once again Valladares suffered a cut but this time the fight was called after three rounds and a No-Contest registered – so we still don’t know about Shigeoka just like we still don’t know for sure about Cuarto.

    What we do know is that Cuarto will be aggressive in Japan, give up chances to Shigeoka with those wide punches, who will need to take them if he wants to keep this aggressive python of a Filipino in hand.

    Melvin Jerusalem, Aged 29, Minimumweight, 20-2, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon

    Melvin Jerusalem is the best minimumweight in the world who is not from Thailand, and if a planned fight comes off against the American Oscar Collazo, he could yet split their control over the top spots. It is possible though that Jerusalem might refuse any opportunity to go to Thailand and make his mark in a match against either Thammanoon Niyomtrong or Panya Pradabsri, the reason being his prior 2017 visit to Thailand to match Chayaphon Moonsri. Moonsri was then enjoying his superb run of victories that occasionally made the news as a comparison to Floyd Mayweather’s 50-0. He continued it at Jerusalem’s expense, but his victory was an almost indefensible gift, bordering on clear robbery (I saw it 116-111 and was unconvinced by the referee’s removal of a point from Jerusalem’s scorecard for a low blow).

    It would be nice to say that Jerusalem picked himself up and dusted himself off and got right back to work but in fact he turned in the single worst performance of his career against the unheralded Joey Canoy just six months later back in The Philippines. He dropped a decision, his career in tatters. Since then, he has gone 9-0 and grabbed a strap with his recent two round destruction of Masataka Taniguchi. Jerusalem was all light feet and heavy hands in this fight, the straight right hand that ended the fight the knockout punch of the year so far.

    Jerusalem is twenty-nine, fun to watch, clever, aggressive, and has summitted. He might just be the best fighter on this list. That match with Collazo in the USA would be most welcome I suspect; look out for this one at the end of May or the beginning of June.

    Manny Pacquiao, Aged 44, Welterweight, 62-8-2, Kibawe, Bukidnon

    To paraphrase the fabulous movie The Princess Bride: Manny Pacquiao is only mostly retired. Last seen in the ring around twenty months ago Manny has been busy with the politics but not so busy that he isn’t looking to return to the ring.

    “Manny still feels he can box at the highest level," Pacquiao associate Sean Gibbons, told Max Boxing last week. “Some business things have to be sorted, but when that happens, we are looking at a date for early June. We are looking at Abu Dhabi, and the name that looks like it is a go is Conor Benn.”

    Most followers of British boxing are horrified by this revelation. Conor Benn was recently suspended by the British Boxing Board of Control after failing not one but two drug-tests whereafter he had his much-hyped contest with Chris Eubank Junior cancelled. Somehow, Conor Benn has been cleared by the WBC (who to my knowledge, didn’t actually suspend him and whose multitude of divisional belts Conor has never fought for), who say he failed these drug tests due to all the eggs he ate. Conor, in turn, has said that that is untrue and that the WBC publicly stating they have cleared him for this reason was not helpful. Given that the WBC cleared him based exclusively upon his own testimony in a document that Conor himself submitted – but equally refused to release to public or to the BBBC who are the people who have actually charged him with wrongdoing – one wonders how the WBC reached this bizarre conclusion. Perhaps we will know more if Conor Benn follows through on his threat to sue the BBBC, who did nothing but their job in preventing a fighter that tested positive for illegal performance enhancing drugs from fighting. Connor claims that the information that the BBBC was acting upon was faulty. By his own testimony he seems to be threatening litigation against the wrong people.

    As World Boxing News observed this week, “Manny Pacquiao is about to walk into an absolute PR nightmare” but for Pacquiao, this is survivable – and the effects of a Pacquiao return on an already thriving Philippines boxing scene cannot be overstated.