For Z, more Zzzz’s before The Dream

The last time I saw Manny Pacquiao at the Cebu City Sports Center, it was one year ago—February 24, 2006—during the Cebu City Charter Day celebration. Manny was greeted by thousands who overflowed the grandstand bleachers to clap and cheer and wave at our RP hero. Manny sang his sentimental song, “Laban Ko ‘To.” He braved the crowds swarmed with Pacman fanatics. During the formal introductions emceed by Councilor Jack Jakosalem, he upstaged our land’s two highest leaders—President GMA and Cardinal Vidal—with a standing ovation.

This was then.

Last Saturday—exactly 12 months later—at 8:15 in the evening, Manny Pacquiao once more entered our Sports Center. Clad in a pink-striped, short-sleeves polo shirt, he wore a shining pair of black leather shoes and an even shinier Rolex watch studded with gold and diamonds. Pacquiao entered the right side of the complex and when the tens of thousands spotted the man, they zoomed on him like a spotlight. People rose. Eyes enlarged. Mouths opened. The speakers blared. But, guess what—something unbelievable and shocking happened next…

Manny Pacquiao was booed!

No kidding. The reigning world champion. The Superman who put Erik Morales to sleep in Las Vegas. RP’s greatest-ever boxer—and yes, that includes Flash Elorde and Pancho Villa.

Manny Pacquiao was booed!

Embarrassing? Nah. Shameful? Nah. Demeaning? Nah. It was much more than that. It was a lesson. A warning. A message. A signal to Mr. Pacquiao that he ought to stick with the first name “Mister” and not change it to “Congressman.”

Seconds after Pacquiao was jeered, thousands screamed in unison, “CONGRESSMAN! CONGRESSMAN!”

And then another round of boos…

Boo, Manny!

You know what? I hope Pacquiao hears more boos. I hope he listens. I hope he hears the message clear and loud, “Back to the gym, not the political ring!”

“Moment of Truth” was, to say the least, a huge, huge success. I’ve been to dozens of events at the Sports Center but I’ve never seen the grandstand as jam-packed as three nights ago.

Cebuanos love boxing. We know that. From Cebu Coliseum to the Waterfront Lahug ballroom to the Mandaue Coliseum to the Gaisano Country Mall parking lot—Cebuanos always paid money, lined up, and watched. But last Saturday was different. It was HUGE. From the boxing ring that loomed at the center with a giant tent—it was Cebu’s first world boxing championship in 10 years—the last time was in Mactan back in 1997 when Gerry Penalosa defended his crown.

The “Moment of Truth” was a moment of success. Even the seats marked P5,000 and P2,000—very expensive tickets based on how “tihik” Cebuanos are—were packed.

To ALA himself, Antonio L. Aldeguer; to his partner and the event promoter, Sammy Gello-ani; to ALA’s heir apparent and boxing’s newest manager, Michael Aldeguer; to Golden Boy Promotions and ABS-CBN—you’ve done Cebu proud.

Z Gorres? Wow. He gave it everything. He punched. He jabbed. He absorbed punches thrown by Fernando Montiel that would have wobbled a lesser being. Behind every “GORRES! GORRES! GORRES!” chant of the thousands from the bleachers, Z Gorres fought. He never backed away. He had Montiel on the ropes, he had Montiel’s left eye bleeding and swollen, he had Montiel’s mouth open and his teeth guard hanging on the 12th round.

He had Montiel him. Almost.

Two points. Those two point deductions he received were painful. Was the referee correct on those? Why wasn’t Z given enough warnings? Did those deductions dampen Z and make a difference at the later rounds?

We don’t know. What we know is this: Z’s time as world champion will soon arrive. But for now, Z’s dream will have to wait. And sleep.

Boom-Boom Bautista? Wow. Wow. Wow. Before the first round bell rang, everybody knew the Boholano would win. It was never a question of “If” but “What round.”

Not only was Boom-Boom in excellent shape, but his opponent was the opposite. From where I sat about 30 feet from the ring, Marino Gonzales never owned the required “six-pack” abs of a boxer. In our words, “naa siya’y bil-bil.” No kidding. You could see fat smiling naked above his shorts. And wasn’t it the first time he’s ever stepped outside Mexico? And didn’t he arrive the day before the fight?

But back to Boom-Boom, I’ve seen him fight in person twice before and, I must say, there’s something different about the Boom-Boom I saw at 10:30 last Saturday night.

Swagger. Yes. He’s got it. That inside-the-chest, Sorry, no chance-you-can-beat-me attitude that resides deep inside every title-holder. In Boom-Boom, you can see it in his eyes. You can see it in the way he prances around the stage. You can see it with our own bare eyes and say, “Future world champion.”

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