Monthly Archives: January 2012

7 points on Novak’s 7th straight win over Rafa

(Getty Images)

I hope you watched the ultra-marathon tennis battle last Sunday night. Seven minutes short of six hours, Novak Djokovic won for the seventh consecutive time against Rafael Nadal. “7th time unlucky?” I asked two days ago. What a premonition. What a Gladiator-like battle. Here are seven points….

1) AGGRESSOR WINS. One of my dad Bunny’s favorite lines is this: “Play to win and don’t play not to lose.” True. For most of the match, Rafa was too defensive. He’d stay five meters off the baseline. He counterpunched. His shots landed short, midcourt. Novak would pound on them and run Rafa left to right like his dog from Serbia. To win, Rafa has to stay closer to the baseline and take risks. This is his only option against Novak. In sports—like in business—those who take risks, win. The bigger the risk, the larger the reward. Novak is the master risk-taker.

2) TRIVALRY. I’m talking about Novak-Rafa-Roger. Here are interesting stats: Between Rafa and Roger, it’s the Spaniard who dominates. Their record is 18-9 (8-2 in majors). It’s lopsided. But, between Rafa and Novak, it’s the opposite. Excluding their earlier contests, it’s been 7-0 since last year. So, Roger loses to Rafa who loses to Novak. (We’ll include Murray in the picture once Lendl aids him in winning a GS title.) Why does Rafa dominate Roger while being dominated by Novak? Here’s why: Roger’s single-handed backhand is his weakness. Rafa pounds on that side. But against Novak? His two-fisted backhand is, like Agassi’s, the best. Novak drills it crosscourt; he smothers it down-the-line. Novak’s forehand is even deadlier. Either wing, Rafa suffers.

3) EMOTIONS. This is what makes tennis so enjoyable to watch. It’s one on one. Unlike football or basketball when the focus is on 10 or 22 players, with tennis, it’s just two. And what facial expressions they display. Rafa winces. Rafa pumps his fists seven times after winning Set 4. Novak falls to the ground. Novak’s eyes turn smaller, a sure sign of extreme fatigue. Their personalities and feelings are in full display. No other sport shows mannerisms (“kuot sa lubot”) and expressions (Novak’s sign of the cross) like tennis.

4) MENTAL. Sport is physical yet it’s won by the mind. The toughest of all competitors, Nadal, was en route to winning his 11th Grand Slam title. He led 4-2 in the fifth set and had an easy backhand down-the-line. He missed. He missed the chance the avenge Novak. What guts the Serbian has. He limped. He collapsed. His knees wobbled. A jab by Jun Intor would have KO’ed him. But, no. Djokovic’s mind would not allow his body to collapse. What courage. To defeat Nadal mentally is Novak’s greatest strength.

5) MEN’S RIGHTS. We’ve all heard of Women’s Rights. I’m making up a new term. You see, the prize money of the champions of both sexes are the same. The winner each gets 2.3 million Australian dollars. In pesos, that’s P105,000,000. But here’s the interesting part. While the men’s final took 5 hours and 53 minutes, the women only took 82 minutes. This means that Novak was paid P297,450 per minute while Azarenka was paid a whopping P1.28 million per minute on court!

6) DAVIS CUP. Remember our two Davis Cup hostings last year at Lapu-Lapu City? In the first one last March 2011, it was the Phils. vs. Japan. The head of the ITF delegation who arrived to preside over the ‘Battle of Mactan?’ His name is Wayne McEwen. Well, this guy is Graeme Mackinnon’s country-mate and he was one of the top officials running the Australian Open. It was Councilor Harry Radaza, in a text message last Sunday, who informed me that McEwen was in center-stage. True enough, in the Awarding Ceremony, McEwen stood alongside Nadal/Djokovic. Nice guy, this Wayne, when we spent some time with him here in Cebu.

7) HIGH-DEFINITION. I’m talking about cable TV. I watched from the room of Charlie, my brother, and he subscribed to SkyCable’s HD channels. What a sight! On Channel 136 (ESPN HD), it’s as if you’re right there in the Rod Laver Arena.

Rafa vs. Novak: 7th time unlucky?

The Swiss lost to the Spaniard who’ll face the Serb who defeated the Scot. Confusing? That’s the “4S” (iPhone 4S, if you were to ask my daughter Jana) who comprised the men’s semifinalists of the Australian Open.

The Spaniard, Rafael Nadal, bested his lifelong nemesis, the Swiss maestro, Roger Federer. In tonight’s final, he’ll face the Serb, Novak Djokovic. Those three form a “Trivalry.” The man Novak defeated in the semis? The Scot, Andy Murray, who almost won the nearly-five-hour-long contest last Friday.

What happened to R & R? Rafa mentally beats Roger. The analysis is as simple as that. It’s like a Pacquiao facing a Mexican; an Anderson Silva encounter; a Tiger Woods leading on Sunday. Deep down inside, these guys know they’ll win.

It’s the same with Rafa. When he meets eyeball to eyeball with Roger, his confidence level is immeasurable. I’m reading his autobiography, “Rafa,” and—like the book as on TV—there are few athletes EVER who are as dogged and relentless and tenacious as Rafa. The only chance Roger has? When it’s a best-of-three match. In a prolonged five sets setting, Nadal will break you down.

Murray v. Djokovic? That wasn’t tennis; it was an ultramarathon. Sayang. I had wished for Andy to win his first Grand Slam title this month. Instead, he’s become a perennial groomsman. Always at the altar of victory, only to watch the other claim the trophy/bride.

The world No.1? Steve Tignor, one of my favorite writers, said in the other day’s “Some Pain, Some Gain,” column:

“As for Murray’s opponent, can we start calling Novak Djokovic the Benjamin Button of tennis? He starts matches as if he’s just finished playing five hard sets. He breathes deeply on the first changeover. He shuffles off court in the middle of the second set and sits down in an open-mouthed daze, as if he might not be able to answer the bell. Come the three-hour mark, though, the man suddenly has some spring in his step—he’s rounding into shape. After four hours, he’s sliding and grunting at full stretch, flipping up a perfect defensive lob, and then tearing toward the net to smack a forehand winner to break serve. He might as well be starting the match right then and there.”

He reminds me of Lance Armstrong. While climbing the torturous Pyrenees or Alps during the Tour de France, the American would often look depleted. But, it was just “acting.” When overconfidence would creep in, he’d unleash a pedal of fury that would spray dust on the face of Jan Ullrich.

In describing the Novak-Andy epic, Jon Wertheim of explains: “This was less a tennis match than an endurance contest on opposite sides of a net, two supremely fit athletes depleting their reserves of energy — and then somehow surging and re-surging. Like Mr. T. in Rocky III, before the match, Murray’s coach, Ivan Lendl, offered a one-word prediction for the evening: pain. He got that right. After so many 40-ball rallies, so much scrambling and bending and locomoting, both players became the embodiments of attrition.”

The question is: Can Novak recover, with one day’s rest compared to 48 hours for Rafa, to be 100 percent ready for today’s grand finale?

“I will try to get as much sleep and recovery program underway and hope for the best,” said Djokovic. “I think that’s going to be crucial for me to recover and to be able to perform my best, because Rafa is fit. He’s been playing well. He had an extra day. He definitely wants to win this title.”

True. Not only does Rafa want his 11th major title—he wants to defeat the man who embarrassed him six times last year. Rafa lost to Novak six times in 2011—all in finals; twice on Rafa’s “I’m-supposed-to-be-unbeatable” surface of clay; once in Wimbledon and another at the US Open.

We know who the crowd will cheer for tonight. RAFA! chants will reverberate around Melbourne. Nothing against the equally-nice-guy Novak, but Rafa’s just a super humble and likeable fellow. Plus, that unyielding and Spanish-bullheaded perseverance.

Watch the Australian Open final this 4:30 P.M. on Star Sports/ESPN.

CERC Party

Our group, the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC), held a victory and thanksgiving party two nights ago at my house. After the success and hard-work behind the Cebu City Marathon, which CERC organized, it was time to relax. We started with a Holy Mass officiated by Rev. Fr. Renel Cabag of the OAD. Then, it was the all-out eating of lechon, kare-kare, dinuguan… (yes, we marathoners, given the mileage on the road, gorge and eat buffet-style).

Among the CERC members who attended the celebration were Roy Trani (CERC president), Jesse Taborada (past president), and Jacs and Perl Jacalan (the ASAP couple staying on until 1 A.M. when Perl celebrated her birthday at the strike of midnight).

Also at the party were Jun Remo, Joel Juarez, 3:43-marathoner Steve Ferraren (our group’s best dancer), Steve de la Cerna, Barry Marquez, Arnold Palma, Rudy Tindugan, Dr. Albert Santos, Dr. Ian Barlaan, Ted Tecson, Jon Consunji, Kenneth and Dr. Tata Casquejo; my SunStar boss, Michelle So; XTERRA champ-to-be Dodong Sulatre; Roel Militar; 4:09 marathoner Nica Ong and Ironman women Annie Neric and Jane-Jane Ong.

After dinner, it was time to turn sentimental. One of our most prized members, Bro. Carlo Bacalla, is leaving Cebu. A member of the Don Bosco congregration, Bro. Carlo will relocate next month to Laos. Yes, the communist republic Laos. (But true to running form, before agreeing, Bro. Carlo reviewed his future neighborhood and found out that there was a beautiful track oval just a few kilometers away. Yes! he said, after discovering the oval.)

Two nights ago, while “Chariots of Fire” played in the background, we viewed pictures of Bro. Carlo joining the 102-K and 160-K ultramarathons. Yes, 102K and 160K! In fact, today, he is leaving for Manila (together with Atty. Haide Acuña) to join this Saturday’s Bataan Death March 160-km. run from Mariveles, Bataan to Tarlac.

We wish Bro. Carlo and Haide good luck for the sure-to-be-agonizing 160K… and Bon Voyage to Bro. Carlo who’ll convert Laos into a running democracy.

Fantastic Four clash at the Australian Open

The last time Mr. Federer met Mr. Nadal in Melbourne was in 2009. “God, it’s killing me,” Federer said after losing 9-7 in the fifth set Final, tears of pain rolling down his chiseled cheeks.

Tonight, R & R square off again. Few rivalries, of any game or form of entertainment, have rivaled the one between the Spaniard and the Swiss. Tonight, I think Roger will win. Much as the record speaks otherwise (it’s 17-9, in favor of Nadal), the Federer Express has been in full-throttle, steamrolling past del Potro (4, 3 and 2) and everybody else who faces him across the Australian net.

The Melbourne courts are fast, speedier than the red-clay favored by Nadal. This quick-bounce court will be an ace for Roger’s 133-mph pinpoint serves.

But this is the intriguing part of the R & R combat. Mentally, it seems as if Rafa owns Roger. Rafa’s forehand to Roger’s backhand—that’s one of the worst one-two punches that overwhelms Roger. Also, if Roger loses, that means Rafa has won twice as many matches, head-to-head (18 vs. 9). How can RF lay claim to the “I’m The Greatest” sovereignty title when Rafa clobbers him?

Still, that’s all history. Tonight will be historic. Roger in 4.

But, wait. Lest we think that tonight’s the finale, it’s only half of it. The main Gladiator-like ending is still this Sunday. Looming at the opposite end?

Djokovic or Murray. Among these Fantastic Four characters, Roger has won 16 majors, Rafa owns 10 and Novak has four, including three from 2011. Andy The Scot? He has none. Luoya sad uy. That’s why I’m cheering for him. (He beat Japanese No. 1 Kei Nishikori, who was supposed to come to Cebu in last year’s Davis Cup tie.) And, though a boring and lifeless counterpuncher, I hope by week’s end Murray will dye his hair red and wear a tattoo, “The 2012 Wizard of Oz.”

Among the women, who doesn’t like Maria Sharapova? I know Michael Jerome Limpag LOVES her. Here’s looking ahead to a Kim Clijsters vs. Maria final on Saturday.

Milan, in Cebu, stars in Mexico vs. Philippines

Michael Pastrano Aldeguer and Bob Arum recently met. One of the top prospects that the chieftains of ALA Promotions and Top Rank discussed?

El Metodico. “The Method Man,” known for his precise, well-designed and deliberate punches, his name is Milan Melindo. Aldeguer explained: “Bruce Trampler, the International Hall of Fame Top Rank match maker who has worked with Muhammad Ali, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, Sugar Ray Leonard and the great Manny Pacquiao, is keen on having Milan in their shows abroad.”

This is outstanding news. Are we anticipating, possibly in Pacquiao’s next Las Vegas encounter this May or June, an ALA boxer to be featured in the undercard? We hope so. Because… sayang. In nearly all of MP’s mega-fights, with tens of millions of eyeballs watching, no prominent Pinoy was featured in the undercard. With this ALA-Top Rank initiative, we might see a change.

Back to Milan Melindo, he’s one of the top guns being groomed. “That just says it all for Milan despite the fact that he has never even fought in the US,” said Michael Aldeguer. “Pinoy Pride, who has achieved double-figure national television ratings, has helped Filipino fighters get global recognition through these events.”

But, before thinking of Las Vegas, it’s Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino this Saturday, January 28. It’s the 11th edition of Pinoy Pride and Melindo is fighting another Mexican, Juan Esquar, in the 112-lb. Flyweight Division.

Why this heated Philippines-Mexico rivalry? I asked Aldeguer. “The Philippines-Mexico rivalry started when Manny, one by one, beat Mexico’s living legends in Marco Antonio Barrera, Eric Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez. What he has done opened doors not only for Filipino boxers abroad but highlighted the rivalry of our nations in boxing. Manny’s achievements showed the world that Filipinos are at par with the best in the world giving inspiration to the young boxer’s dream that you can achieve anything if you work hard.”

(In my further research, Mexico and the Philippines are so similar that, despite our geographical distance, we’re “baby-making nations.” Mexico ranks as the 11th most populous nation on this planet (113 million) while ours is ranked 12th at 94 million.)

With Milan’s opponent, Juan Esquer, is he: A patsy? A whipping boy? A sacrificial boxing lamb ready to be bloodied by the undefeated (in 25 fights) Milan Melindo?

“Juan Esquer has fought the best fighters of his division,” said Aldeguer. “He has fought six world champions: Ivan Calderon, Hernan Marquez, Carlos TamaraGilberto, Keb Baas, Lui Concepcion and Kermin Guardia. He has a 56.76 % KO percentage.”

Impressive. He also has, like boxers in the mold of Mayweather, a loud mouth. “I am a fighter who likes to slug it out and I am going to win by knockout so that they (judges) will not take away the fight from me,” Esquer said. “I am 100% sure of winning my fight against Melindo.”

100 percent sure? What I’m 100 % sure of is this: This Saturday will be a carnage. Jabs, wallops, uppercuts will bombard Lahug.

I asked Michael A. what he likes about Milan M. “He has a high boxing I.Q. He is so focused and is very hard-working. He analyzes the game and he has always have had a cerebral approach to everything. What is great about Milan is his being calculated with his punches and he picks his spots and times his punches well.”

As to the Pinoy Pride Series, Aldeguer adds: “Each Pinoy Pride is unique as boxing shows are always unpredictable and feature different fighters and opponents from different nationalities. Like the last Pinoy Pride Philippines vs Mexico wherein up and coming fighter Jason Pagara lost to Rosbel Montoya of Mexico. Hopefully, Filipinos will come and support Team Philippines against The World in their quest to win the World Trophy and bring pride to the country once again. ALA Promotions is always true to its goal to discover and support Filipino fighters and for them to have a great venue to showcase their skills to the world.”

Chess world record: ‘Proudly Made In Cebu!’

Want to witness history? Today? The Guinness World Record? Visit the Cebu City Sports Center. I did yesterday. What did I see? Thousands of students with their brain cells activated. They pushed the pawns forward. They gobbled up hundreds of rooks. They smiled when the King collapsed. They screamed, “Checkmate!”

Why is chess important? I asked the brains behind this brain-game, Edward Hayco. “Reading a book, for example, instead of watching a movie, affords the child a deeper, more profound and thorough understanding of a certain concept,” said Ed, the chairman of the Cebu City Sports Commission. “In this case, we’re talking about the theories of chess… how the game is played, its rules, how the pieces moves, how you achieve your goals; how to be patient and when to be aggressive… it creates a deeper sense of awareness and creativity in the minds of the kids. It develops their character to be patient, to analyze and strategize aside from just being a game for the intellectual.”

Ed added: “If we plant the seeds right and nurture it well, Cebu may just be the next CHESS MECCA OF THE WORLD!”

Ambitious. Visionary. Sensational. These are the words to describe Mr. Hayco. And, as grandiose as his dreams are, he’s able to fulfill them. Look at Dancesport. Ed promised a “Largest Dance Class In The World.” He delivered in 2009. This weekend, he promises the “Largest Chess Tournament,” easily outnumbering the 1,214 of Russia. He delivers with 43,157 participants. Also, Cebu is the world-record holder in “Most Fireworks Launched in Less Than a Minute” (thanks to Brian Lim of Pyroworks, that’s 125,801 firework rockets).

In the Philippines, Cebu is the “Sports World Record City.”

Yesterday, I watched the Opening Ceremony at 1:30 P.M. A total of 1,500 pairs of students sat across each other with chessboards in between. They filled the entire Abellana grandstand.

A six-year-old Grade 1 student read the Oath. Rening Ylaya, aged 76, joined to face a high-schooler. The highlight? The dance presentation on a giant eight-by-eight grid chessboard. From the left entered the “live” chess pieces dressed in formal, Medieval attire. They were the 16 black pieces. From the right emerged the Sinulog-dressed tribal human pieces. Move after move, dance after dance, they battled on the same stage as last Sunday’s Sinulog. In the end, our own indigenous pieces won. What a show!

(SunStar Cebu)

Ed told me the story of the night high school students. In one public school, only 60 percent attended the classes. But, miraculously, after the chess tournament started, the attendance jumped to 90 percent. Said Ed: “They wanted to attend school so they can play chess!”

Volunteerism is at the heart of this endeavor. “We partnered again with DepEd,” said Ed, “with Dr. Rhea Mar Angtud, Dr. Jimenez, Mrs. Gocotano, Mrs. Veloso. Boogie Lim of Rose Pharmacy with Roger Abella, Felix Poloyapoy, Odi, Louie.. Julie’s Bakeshop, thru their president, Opep Gandionco, Paul Peyreyra, provided our snacks! And IPI, thru its pres., Junpi Castillo, Tito de la Merced, and Dean… the 2,000 chess mats and corresponding pieces and 10 giant training boards. PSC Chair Richie Garcia gave 100t! We had Ricky Ballesteros, Brando, Gayle, April, Bernard Ricablanca… achieved thru the efforts of passionate volunteers. Again, PROUDLY MADE IN CEBU!”

The Cebu Chess Festival ends today. But, in truth, it’s only the start. “The impact may not be felt now,” said Ed, “but when we start discovering Grandmasters years from now, we know they are the fruits of the seeds that were planted today. We were told that there are now many kids seen along school corridors during recess, along the street sidewalks and sari-sari stores playing chess. Many of them playing with their fathers! It’s a nice sight. We feel we have made the kids REDISCOVER THE ART OF CHESS, creating the intellectual warrior in them. We hope we have taught them that it’s more exciting to read a book than to watch a movie… more exciting to play chess than to play a computer game.”

Australian Open notes from Edwin Salazar

When we used to play tennis at the Casino Español prior to his departure for The Land Down Under, the forehand of Engr. Edwin Salazar was most feared. He’d grip the racket upside-down and spin that yellow ball from underneath. He was nicknamed “Cebu’s right-handed Rafa Nadal.”

Edwin is now Australia-based, residing in Gold Coast City. The big news from Oz? The Australian Open, now on its historic 100th year. Edwin and I exchanged emails yesterday; him supplying tons of details. Here are excerpts…

“Sus, John! Had planned to go to the Australian Open but tickets to the last three days leading to the finals were sold out.

“The Australian Open is such a big event. Leading up to the Open, there are one-week tournaments played in the cities of Perth, Sydney, Kooyong (Melbourne) and Brisbane.

“On the first Monday of January was the first day at the Brisbane Open. I watched this tournament. The sports facility is called Pat Rafter Arena—not owned by Rafter but named after him.

“My family also attended the opening of the Pat Rafter Arena about 3-4 years ago. All the great Australian tennis legends were there. This tennis facility was inundated with storm-water last year. The center court was under water by at least 1m. The outside courts, by at least 2.5m. The clean-up and repairs were amazing. There were no signs of flooding when I visited the arena this year.

“The Brisbane Open was won by Andy Murray. Bernard Tomic reached the finals but was defeated by Murray sa semis. The following week, Tomic won the Kooyong Open.

“All top 32 players scatter themselves into the various pre-open tournaments. So the whole January, one can see matches being shown sa free TV or cable. One will also see the sports pages of all newspapers filled with tennis stories.

Mas grabi pa gyud ang local news diri because Sam Stosur and Bernard Tomic are from here. The top ranked male (Tomic) and female (Stosur) Australian players are from Gold Coast City. Both went through public schools and started tennis at a very young age. Both still stay in the Gold Coast when not competing.

“On some occasions I see Tomic and Stosur practice at Queens Park Tennis Club. Would you believe Stosur picks up the balls herself during practice? Here, I’m surprised… walay ball boys even to world-ranked athletes during practice.

“When Stosur won the US Open, the Mayor of Gold Coast organized a big event for her. It was held at Broadwater Parkland, a park which has a stage in an area as big as Abellana.

“Bernard Tomic, ranked 37, is the hot topic. He’s the world’s youngest top 50 player at 19. Coached by his dad, John, they have the same Lydia de Vega-and-Tatang relationship and coaching style. Bernard’s dad is not a professional coach and people keep suggesting that he should get a real pro coach. However, he’s fast rising, having beaten two top ten players in the last seven days.

(William West/AFP/Getty Images)

“On the first day of his Australian Open play, Tomic beat Verdasco in five sets. He also defeated a top 10 rated male tennis player when he won the Kooyong Classic.

“The temperature in the Australian Open is an issue. Pwerti kunung inita. I have not been there but hopefully I will experience that tortuous heat next year.

“Tomic has been recognized as a star in the making since he won the Wimbledon boys title in 2008 at the age of 15. The whole of Australia is cheering behind Tomic with Hewitt as the sentimental favourite. It’s just sad that Sam Stosur lost on her first day.

“I have not been to the Open at Melbourne, but from what I saw during the Brisbane Open, The Australian Open would be huge—I will make this as an item in my bucket list.

“During my visit sa Brisbane Open, the atmosphere was so nice. There was a place for kids to stay and play, an open park with a band playing scattered with tables and surrounded with stalls selling food and coffee.

“By the way, please tell Pareng Jun San Juan that Bernand Tomic plays like him. And Andy Murray plays like you, John.”

Ha-ha. Thanks, mate.

URCC Cebu 7: Bakbakan na!

MMA champ Eduard Folayang with Alvin Aguilar and Renault Lao (Photo:

If you think boxing is bloody, watch mixed martial arts (MMA). With its ruthlessness and savagery, it makes boxing look like a ballet recital.

I watched last Friday. It was my first. Sure, boxing is noisy and full of energy—but you ought to see the Universal Reality Combat Championship (URCC).

It’s today’s Gladiator. Heavy metal music blasts off the speakers. A live band head-bangs. Everybody—including Ironman champ Noy Jopson—drinks beer. That’s Colt 45. The ring announcer—the excellent Bo Orellaneda, formerly with Y101—screams just like Joe Rogan. And the spectators… they’re younger, wilder, louder and more sadistic than the ALA Boxing audience.

The referee? After both fighters are ready to pounce, he shouts the famous line… BAKBAKAN NA!!!!

Then, they’re off. Like two pit bulls who’ve been hungered since Christmas, they’re ready to ravish. They batter each other’s faces. The elbow is not used for protection—but as a hammer to pound on the enemy’s open face. And, once a man is down, the other would swoop like a mad dog. He’d hop on top to punch and pelt and stab.

It’s animalistic. It’s legalized street-fighting. It’s no-holds-barred. Also, quite often, it ends very fast. Take the first fight: Alde de Soza won in Round 1 via the famous “Kimura Lock.” The battle was over in a few seconds.

That’s the beauty of this sport. As brutal as we see it on UFC, it’s also ended quickly if danger is sensed. Tap-tap-tap. That’s when the opponent taps-out to signal his surrender.

As cannibalistic and lethal as this sport is, that’s what makes it safe. The quick tap-out. If one is unable to sustain the pain, the response is easy: Tap-tap-tap. As soon as the referee sees that, the fight ends.

Still, it’s bloody. It’s vicious. Yet, the crowd is as happy as I’ve seen it of any sport. It brings out the fighting instinct of the predominantly-male crowd.

The best fight at CICC that night? No contest: the Cary “The Prince” Bullos vs. Rex de Lara bout. Almost all other fights (there were a total of eight) were finished in Round One. This ended up nearly the same way. Bullos nearly lost as he was choked by de Lara. The crowd gasped. Their local favorite (from Lapu-Lapu City) was near defeat. But he persisted. In Round 2, he swiftly performed the guillotine choke.

Tap-tap-tap. Bullos resurrects and wins! The crowd screams.

The most spectacular moment? Roel Rosauro’s “put to sleep” move on Arnel Ylanan. How? With just seconds left before the first round (there are only two rounds per fight; each round has 10 minutes), he jumped, spun a 360-degree move and, with his fist in high-speed motion, he pummeled the face of the blindsided enemy. “Spinning back fist,” it’s called and, instantaneously, Ylanan fell. Game over.

The main event? As a novice, I had not heard of Eduard Folayang until last week. Well, he’s a rockstar of the sport. He’s their Paeng N.; their Bata R. He’s massive. Not only was Folayang’s upper-body well-defined and bulky, but his legs—“they’re like VECO posts,” said Jingo.

Facing him one-on-one, you’d get scared. I bet that’s how Wadson Teixeira felt when they met. Standing in front of each other, even before “Bakbakan Na!” was shouted, it was a no-contest. It ended in 56 seconds. Folayang sat atop the fallen enemy and just pounded him, peppered him, barraged him with fists and elbows until the Thailand-based Brazilian was unconscious in Mandaue.

Given his build, strength and VECO-post-like legs, I wonder how he’ll do in the US, for example, fighting the likes of Frankie Edgar or Jose Aldo. Pardon my ignorance but imagine a Baguio City fighter in Las Vegas?

Among the full capacity crowd, it was good to see Jesse Bernad, Harry Radaza, Richard Sharpe, Judge Charina Quijano, my former editor (and MMA expert and judge) Paul Taneo…

Congratulations to Renault Lao who, despite the busiest party week (he owns The Loft and Penthouse), organized URCC 7. My only complaint?

Why only one URCC event each year? Cebu salivates to see more.

From dancing to chess, Cebu is the world-record city

Pit Señor! To all balikbayans and guests visiting our beloved and historic Sugbu… maayong pag-abot… welcome!

Cebu City is not only known for hosting the country’s biggest festival—the Sinulog—that dances off the streets this weekend. Cebu City is not only home to the nation’s oldest avenue: Colon Street. It not only boasts of such iconic landmarks as the Fuente Osmeña, the Magellan’s Cross and the newly-renovated Plaza Independencia. Cebu is the World Record City.

In sports, we own the title of the world’s largest-ever dance group. Back in June 2009, a total of 7,770 dancers congregated inside the Cebu City Sports Center to boogie, waltz, do the samba and swing, to twist and turn.

From SunStar Cebu

Thanks to Edward and Eleanor Hayco, the couple who lead the dancesport fever in this island, our city owns the title, “Largest Dance Class in the World.”

Later this week—on Jan. 21 and 22—another Guinness World Record will be added to our resume; only this time, it’s the sweat-less but mind-exercising game played on a checkered board with 64 squares.

Would you believe, a record 40,000 players will play chess. Yes, no misprint there: Forty thousand!

“The idea started when we were invited to the Shell Active Chess competition and we saw 500 players,” said Ed Hayco, who leads the Cebu City Sports Commission as chairman. “There were kids as young as 8. We saw one playing with good players over their 30s! I don’t know if the 8-year-old won but he was giving the 30-yr.-old a hard time.”

Thanks to chess patron Boogie Lim and several other chess aficionados, Ed and his CCSC team felt passionate about this sport of Garry Kasparov and Bobby Fischer.

“We planned to organize a monthly chess tournament at the Sports Institute to sharpen the competence of these kids, many of whom come from public schools,” said Ed. “To kick off the idea, we thought of doing a Guinness record to create awareness.”

But Ed had a problem. The world record, owned by Russia, said that they had 1,240 participants.

“Cebu only had a thousand players,” he said. “Where will we get the other 300 players to beat the record? So we partnered with the Department of Education (DepEd) to hit two birds with one stone. Instead of just aiming to break the record, we instead use the Guinness Record to excite the public school kids to learn, play and compete in chess.”

And so from 1,300, the number ballooned to…..  40,000. How is that jump possible? “We have labored for two months providing seminars to public school teachers, PE, MAPE, PESS, and sports coordinators to teach, coach and conduct chess tourneys,” said Ed. “After those two months, the teachers were given another two months to train the kids.”

After the chess tutorials, the students joined tournaments. It was limited to within their classrooms. Then, it was elevated to the whole school. Next, it’s the record attempt.

“What will happen on Jan 21/22 is the finals,” said Ed. “Each public school will send 32 school-wide finalists. We expect 100 public schools to send and that would make 3,000 finalists. The Guinness World Record is based on the total participants, from classroom-based to school-wide to the finalists over a three month period. That’s how we’ll achieve the 40,000 total.”

This grassroots strategy is the expertise of Mr. Hayco and his CCSC team. It’s how Ed was able to convince tens of thousands of children—many of them out-of-school youth—to do the foxtrot, tango and dance to “Mambo No. 5.”

The best part? This is not a one-time, after-this-week-let’s-forget-about-chess program. “We have prepared 2,000 chess boards for Jan. 21 and 22,” said Ed. “The public school teachers will bring home the chess boards so they can continue the program. We plan to sustain this by a bi-monthly tournament in all public schools. This should be able to sustain the interest, and hopefully, we will find grandmaster kids from one of our lesser barangays, who may give Cebu a shot for the Olympic gold in 2020!”

Has MMA outkicked the sport of boxing?

The world of boxing is lucky. There’s Manny Pacquiao. Without him, who’d be the superstar? Other sports have plenty. There’s Lionel Messi, Usain Bolt, Novak Djokovic; there’s LBJ and KB; there’s Michael Phelps.

Boxing? Take out our Pinoy pride and there’s no more Mike Tyson or Evander Holyfield. Wasn’t boxing centered on the heavyweights? Yes. It was. Yes, that’s the past tense. Because heavyweight-superstars have disappeared.

Mixed martial arts? I confess, years back, to switching channels when the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was shown on SkyCable’s Balls channel. It was too bloody. Muscled men hugged and exchanged embraces. Someone was sure to die from this!!!

But, as time passed and superstar names like Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, BJ Penn, Brock Lesnar and, now, Jon “Bones” Jones appeared, I’ve gotten to like the MMA. In fact, I’ve gotten to really like the UFC. I’m just as excited to watch an upcoming Gladiator-like UFC contest as I am in watching tennis or running.

Tomorrow, Friday, I’ll finally get the chance to watch this sport in person. Together with my neighbor on this page, Atty. Jingo Quijano, I’ll be at the CICC for the URCC-Cebu 7. URCC stands for Universal Reality Combat Championship and the event is entitled, “Dominate.”

“Undefeated kickboxing star Renante ‘Limbas’ Noblefranca of Yaw-Yan ArDigma has vowed a swift knockout victory as he faces Brazilian Jiu-jitsu specialist Jonathan Sumugat,” wrote my fellow sportswriter from The Freeman, Lemuel Maglinte, himself a mixed-martial artist. “It will be a battle between a striker and a grappler as Noblefranca, who is known for his deadly ‘spinning back fist’, will try to assert his mastery in kickboxing against the Davao City-native Sumugat, a gold medallist in the 2010 Pan-Asia Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Open.”

Noblefranca, only 19, has fought 28 times (wow, how old did he start, at 12 years old?). Last year at the 6th edition of the URCC-Cebu, he won a first round TKO.

“Yaw-Yan Cebu ArDigma CEO/Founder and Vis-Min director Master Benigno “Ekin” R. Caniga, Jr. expressed his confidence not only to Noblefranca but also to his other two boys that will be showing their stuff in the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) card. They are Geronimo Etac and Roel Rosauro,” continued Lemuel in his story. “Etac will challenge URCC Visayas pinweight title-holder Victor Torre of Bacolod City , while Rosauro will figure in a grudge rematch of sort against Arnel Ylanan of Mandaue’s Bullet Fighting System.”

Blessings for a CCM ‘sun’ day last Sunday

Thank you, Lord! When the rains deluged Cebu last Saturday night, we were worried. Rain is good. It usually is. But not during a major outdoor event like a marathon. But, thanks to His divine plan, the stormy weather stopped at 3 A.M. and the skies cleared (even from the scorching sun—perfect for the runners!) the entire day. Thanks to….

CERC. It’s called volunteerism. Members of the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC)—led by our president Roy Trani—have to be lauded for the many months of preparation.

KENNETH CASQUEJO. Among the CERC members, none worked harder than Kenneth, the man behind the race-organizing company Run Check. Kenneth handled the bulk of the operations—from helping in the Registration to heading the Race Expo to delivering many of the supplies (water, bananas, Pocari Sweat). Good job, Ken!

UC. The biggest contingent was from the University of Cebu. When I met Atty. Gus Go two months ago, he promised that his students will join. They did. Numbering 2,000, they crowded the streets. Special thanks to UC’s top officials Bernard Ricablanca and Emerson Subong.

BOYING. Seven days ago, I received this SMS message: “Do you still need extra help? Although I am registered, won’t be able to run. Crashed my bike and sprained my wrist and ankle. Not being able to run will be frustrating but at least helping out and being part of it will ease the pain.” The sender? Top sportsman Boying Rodriguez, who helped last Sunday at the Plaza Independencia.

SRP. By motorcycle, I was able to tour the CCM route. The best spot was the South Road Properties. The climate was cool. Both lanes were closed to vehicular traffic. The sunlight emerged from the waters off Bohol. Thousands of brave runners mustered the courage to fight their fatigue and run.

TUNNEL. Among the 14 water stations that provided hydration, one of the best areas—manned by CERC’s Dodong Sulatre—was the tunnel. Two “higantes” entertained the runners. Free massage was offered. Cold water spray was splashed on the faces. Loud music boomed. Perfect.

12 NOON. Eight hours after we released the 42K runners at 4 A.M., the last runner, Francis Velasquez of Cagayan de Oro, arrived barefoot. He ran without shoes (to raise funds for the victims of Sendong) the entire route. We gave his wife the finisher’s medal as she donned it on him at the Finish; they kissed and hugged as we applauded.

JIGGY. Arriving just minutes before Francis was Jiggy Cerna who succumbed to leg cramps at Km. 22. Imagine limping the remainder of the way—that’s 20 more kms.—just to finish. That’s perseverance. Jiggy’s wife, Chay, who finished the 21K, patiently waited at the I.T. Park. What a gallant effort from the voice behind Y101.

MAYOR. Proclaiming during the Press Conference that a healthy body is a prerequisite for a strong mind, Mayor Mike Rama joined the 5K. He wore jersey number “1.” Councilor Edgar Labella, a long-distance runner, also ran.

CITOM. Nearly 100 traffic enforcers engulfed the city of Cebu last Sunday. With most of the roads closed to provide a safe passageway for the participants, CITOM played a most crucial role. CITOM Chairman Jack Jakosalem and executive director Raffy Yap: thanks!

YAYOY AND ED. To Cebu City Councilor Raul Alcoseba, who spearheads the Committee on Sports, his backing for the prize money was invaluable. So was the support of CCSC chairman Edward Hayco.

FIRE BRIGADE. Led by one of my closest buddies, Wilton Uykingtian, the Cebu Filipino Chinese Volunteer Fire Brigade helped cool the heating bodies of the runners. They were at Fuente Osmeña. They showered water at the SRP.

MEDICAL. In an event covering 42 kms. in scope, medical response is most essential. The CERC is blessed to have many doctor/members. Thanks to our fellow CERC member Dr. Rosan Trani, we were able to enlist 10 more groups who spread themselves all over the route. Dr. Wyben Briones was one volunteer. He was stationed at KM. 36 in Gen. Maxilom Ave. Thanks to the All Terrain Medical Relief Organization (AMRO).

Congratulations, CCM runners!

To all those who participated and finished the Cebu City Marathon yesterday, January 8… CONGRATS!!! All the months and weeks of hard work on the road have paid off… and you must be resting those legs and knees and recuperating. There’s no better feeling than seeing that finish line and crossing it. See you all next year!