Monthly Archives: April 2014

Azkals nearly bite the Tigers

Ricky Dakay’s birthday is this Friday. It should have been celebrated last Sunday with thousands serenading “Happy Birthday” as gratitude to the president of the Cebu Football Association.

Thanks to Engr. Dakay and his dynamic and relentless CFA team, Cebuanos were treated once more to international-caliber football.

The crowd gathered inside the Cebu City Sports Center was huge — though not as full-capacity as Face Off 1 when the Azkals played the Singapore Lions two Novembers ago. Still, the full stretch of the grandstand teemed with fans, screaming… HA-PIT NA! HA-PIT NA! This chant reverberated throughout the stadium. Chance after chance, near-goal after near-goal, our Pinoys fired and fired.

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We scored! Almost. Kicks would sail just inches outside the rectangle — as if a magnet propelled it away. Shots boomeranged against the post. A perfect center strike by Nate Burkey skirted upwards by inches. HAPIT NA! was replayed like a tape recorder with a rewind button.

In the first half (45 minutes), the “Stray Dogs” dominated the Tigers. In ball possession, we must have controlled the offense 70 percent of the time. Sadly, there’s no score for “ball possession.” By half-time, the giant scoreboard across the field had zero movement; the numbers read, “0-0.”

Our Pinoy squad, wearing all blue including knee-high blue socks, commanded the field as if to say, “This is our home!” James Younghusband, wearing No. 7, stood ready at the right wing. He’d receive a pass, kick the ball up the middle, a teammate would shoot — but, no… no score!

During the lull moments when the ball exchanged feet at the center, the crowd went silent. But when the ball would gallop closer towards the enemy’s pit, an excitement not experienced in other sports — with 15,000 people yelling and standing together — enveloped the arena. Still, no good, no goal.

HAPIT NA! soon became “hapit na ma hu-man ang game” (almost finished). While we dictated the offense for the first 80 minutes, the last few moments of the game was chilling.

Malaysia, wearing yellow-and-black, grew desperate and, a couple of times, nearly shot the ball into the net. The most spine-chilling part: Just a few minutes before game’s end, just when CCSC was about to go quiet with a zero-all draw, a free kick ensued… for Malaysia! The audience was in disbelief. What? How did that happen? We can’t lose this way! After wasting so many chances?

But as yesterday’s headline proclaimed, “Deyto saves Azkals,” as our goalie Patrick Deyto jumped left to foil what could have been an agonizing ending. Moments later, the whistle was blown and it was another scoreless 90 minutes.

OBSERVATIONS. Upon my arrival, I saw Nimrod Quiñones, the CFA board member, giving strict instructions to the ushers. With Nimrod at the helm, crowd control was excellent.

The CCSC grass was as green as La Salle; as pristine as a golf course. The flood lights, as bright as noon.

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The extended bleachers (constructed by Dakay Construction, I’m sure) were a big help. Those with front-row seats included Basti and Aina Lacson with their son.

I’m not as big a football fan as my SunStar pals Mike L. or Noel V. but here are some questions:

Why don’t players have their family names placed on the back? Given the 22 players on field, this would make it easier, especially to the casual fan, to find out who is who.

No timer? I’m not sure if this was unique to CCSC but a big digital clock would help us monitor the game clock.

No regular “voice over” messages unlike basketball. I guess this is the norm for soccer. But wouldn’t it be nice to hear a semi blow-by-blow account from Jiggy Jr.?

Giant-size TV. I know this is asking too much but this is often the “problem” with live games. (This isn’t limited to soccer.) We’re so used to watching replays and slow-motion action that they’ve become a TV habit. In many live sporting events, we don’t have this. How we wish, at times, to see that replay!

Nietes: The Pride of PP-XXV

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A dozen years ago, when Donnie Nietes arrived in Cebu from Negros Occidental, he was only 19. He had studied elementary in the town of Murcia, 20 minutes away from Bacolod — the city where he finished high school in Brgy. Granada.

“My uncle Adin Nietes was then the chief cook at the ALA Boxing Gym,” said Donnie. “I was a young boy from Negros who loved boxing. I asked my uncle if I could work in Cebu.”

His first job: a janitor. “I worked as a utility boy,” he said. But, while mopping floors and throwing the garbage kept him busy the whole day, his eyes were fixed on another prize: boxing. “My ambition was to become a boxer,” Donnie said. On his spare hours, he trained. Gradually, this diminutive teenager who spoke Ilonggo became the gym’s hardest-worker.

Today, Donnie Nietes is the personification of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s adage: “Without ambition, one starts nothing. Without work, one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.”

When we met last Tuesday for lunch, Donnie was groovy and dapper. He wore a striped long-sleeves polo shirt that folded near his elbows. The color: purple. Same with his shoes; a trendy brand called “DC” worn by skateboarders. Color: purple. On his left wrist was a giant-size watch by G-Shock. His face was clean-shaven except for the goatee.

Nietes today is a world champ in hip and fashion. “Everything we learned from Sir ALA,” he said, including tips on “how to look like a world champ.”

Antonio Lopez Aldeguer, whose ALA gym was started 28 years ago, has nurtured his fighters not just in the art of punching — but in bigger arena of life. “He’s not only our manager but he’s a father to us,” Donnie said. “He provides guidance and advises us on all matters including money, our attitudes and even what clothes to wear.”

But one question Mr. Aldeguer often asks Donnie, why purple? “I like the color,” said Donnie, laughing. What’s no laughing matter is this: Nietes will be ready for Moises Fuentes when their rematch unfolds two Saturdays from now at the SM MOA Arena.

Part of Donnie’s focused training is staying at the ALA gym for two months prior to fight day. Because while Nietes has owned a house through his earnings and resided there for years, he has to sleep at the ALA gym quarters.

“The fighters have to be completely focused,” said ALA gym trainer Edmund Villamor, who joined us for lunch. “There’s an 8 p.m. daily curfew and the guards won’t let anyone out. Everyone has to stay-in and they only go home Saturday night and come back Sunday.”

Nietes is taking the May 10 bout seriously, even if it takes time away from his partner, Mary Joy Cayao, and their two daughters, aged two years old and four months.

The stakes are high. Nietes ruled the WBO minimum weight (105 lbs.) division when he defeated Pornsawan Porpramook in Sept. 30, 2007. “I consider that victory, my first world title, to be the most memorable of my career,” Donnie told me. We had lunch at the Cebu I.T. Park and he pointed to the actual venue — the Waterfront Hotel — which was just a few hundred of meters away.

He defended the world title from 2007 until 2011. He then moved up in weight to win the Light Flyweight class, defeating Ramon Garcia Hirales in October 2011 in front of his fellow Ilonggos inside the La Salle Coliseum. We witnessed that historic bout in Bacolod.

From Sept. 2007 until now, he’s been world champ — and is just months away from breaking the seven-year record (1960 – ’67) of the great Gabriel “Flash” Elorde.

Donnie — who’ll turn 32 this May 13 — still has many years of boxing ahead. He plans to move up in weight soon.

This early, he’s looking to the future. He’s a businessman. Two years ago, he opened a rice-and-feeds store in Mansilingan, Bacolod. “My parents, Josue and Renelia, manage the store,” he said. He might also open a Cebu eatery in partnership with some friends. And, looking ahead, he will help train future champions. But, for now, it’s Pinoy Pride XXV.

Lunch with Donnie Nietes

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The WBO world boxing champion likes to bike. He owns four types of folding bikes. One that’s 16 inches (the wheel); he has two more, 20 and 26 inches. But his favorite: a very small 10-inch (wheel) folding bike. “We bike from Cebu City,” he said, “all the way south to Barili then up north to Tabuelan.”

Donnie Liboon Nietes is an extraordinary athlete. If you’re the best 108-pound boxer on Earth, you have to be.

Apart from four folding bikes, Donnie also owns a mountain-bike. He pedals often, usually during off-season, and is a member of the BTFC. “That’s the Bike and Talk Friendship Club,” he said. “We’re a group of over 100 members. On Sundays, we do long rides.” Why does he enjoy it? “Biking is an excellent cardio workout. Going uphill is tough.”

Donnie and I had lunch last Tuesday. He was accompanied by ALA gym coach Edmund Villamor. We met at our family-owned Mooon Cafe at the Cebu I.T. Park. Dining at the Mexican-inspired restaurant, Donnie will be facing a Mexican this May 10 at the SM Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena. It’s a rematch against Moises Fuentes.

Hailing from Murcia, Negros Occidental, Donnie and I often spoke in Ilonggo. For 75 minutes, we exchanged lots of stories.

Donnie’s a huge Michael Jordan fan. Today, he follows the Miami Heat and is eagerly awaiting the three-peat in the NBA Finals.

Volleyball? Check. “I often watch inter-barangay tournaments,” said Donnie, who used to play volleyball when he was in elementary.

He also swims. Here’s a funny story: Back when he was a little boy in Murcia, their house was a few steps away from the river. Donnie learned swimming this way: His dad Josue would throw him to the water! He had to scramble to survive. Donnie was only six years old then. “I cried and cried because the water was deep,” he said. But, he proudly said, I learned to swim!

FOOD. I asked him about his weight. “This morning, I was 116 lbs.,” he said. “A day before the weigh-in, I’ll be just two pounds over. I’m right on track with the 108 lbs. limit.”

Edmund Villamor explained that “making weight” is one of the toughest challenges of a boxer. At the ALA Boxing Gym, the target is a gradual weight reduction of two pounds per week.

Talking about food, we ordered. Donnie scanned the menu. Pasta? Fish? Chicken? I offered.

“I’ll have beef,” he said. The world champ ordered Steak A La Pobre. “With plenty of garlic,” he said. He cleaned the plate with a cupful of garlic rice.

Nietes needed the protein. Hours after our lunch, he would be engaged in the final and toughest sparring session of his training: a 12-rounder at 3 p.m. last Tuesday against four boxers who’d alternate fighting him per three rounds. Two of those sparring mates at the ALA Boxing Gym in Cabancalan were Johnriel Casimero and Milan Melindo.

SNAKE. We talked about his nickname, “Ahas” (snake). He pulled out his huge Sony phone. Browsing through the photos, he showed me two pictures of him standing in his living room. Shirtless, the boxer wore boxers and, on his neck was draped a white and yellow Burmese Python.

“His name is Don,” said Donnie of his snake. “When I bought him four years ago, he was only this small,” showing me his pinkie finger. Don was then one foot long. Now, he’s about 12 feet long and growing. “I bought him for P6,000.”

Donnie brings Don to his fights in Cebu and Bacolod. But not in Manila, he said, complaining about the hassle. Prior to Don, he owned a Philippine python. But Donnie confessed, “I’ll never hold a cobra!”

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RITUALS. Unlike Bradley who doesn’t shower for a week prior to the fight or Marquez who drinks his urine, Donnie doesn’t have any crazy habits. “I pray,” he said. Before arriving at the fight arena, he spends time in prayer. “I’ve been religious since birth,” he told me of his Christian belief. To relax, he loves to lie on his “duyan” (hammock) and listen to Christian songs from Chris Tomlin and Don Moen.

Sports this summer

gallery_a gal“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” I love that quote. It’s by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the German writer born in 1749.

I add another gift: Love for sports. This summer, when your children have endless hours and a myriad of activities to choose from, let him or her do sports.

It may be basketball. With the NBA Playoffs now on-going, this would be the best motivation to enroll in a Summer Basketball Clinic. There are dozens of choices.

Swimming is best. It’s hot. It’s refreshing. It’s a must to learn how to swim — in case of emergency. Like basketball, every blue-colored pool in Cebu offers some form of swimming classes. Boxing. Tennis. Dancesport. Let your child choose. What’s important is a sport that she’ll enjoy. Volleyball is “in” today. With Ateneo’s dramatic UAAP victory, volleyball has transformed into a hugely popular game. Karatedo, Taekwondo, Arnis or any type of martial arts are also highly recommended. These sports offer plenty of discipline. They also teach the essential art of self-defense — just in case the unexpected happens.

Whatever the sport, what’s imperative is that you keep your children active. This is the disease of today’s modern world. Mobile phones. Facebook. Computers. PS4. Chatting. Instagram. All of these gadgets and technological advancements help us a lot — but they also help our children to become lazy, anti-social and, sorry for the term, fat.

“Surfing” isn’t what it used to be — the act of stripping off your clothes to balance on a board and be bombarded by wind and waves. “Surfing” today keeps your buttocks planted on the chair, browsing websites while you eat Chippy and drink Coke.

This summer, get out. Do. Move. Jump. Run. Pedal. Swing. Dance. Kick. Jab.

But here’s a vital tip: Don’t just throw your child into a summer program for the sake of getting him out of your house. Our children need our Presence more than Presents. If possible, enroll in a program together. Play golf together. Swim together. Do. Play. Run 5Ks. Together. This doesn’t only teach your child the importance of fitness, but, more importantly, it reinforces your bond.

I remember my now-15-year-old daughter Jana. When she was younger, we engaged in all types of games. Playing baseball using plastic bats in the parking lot. Roller-skating in the garage. Ball-throwing in the bedroom. Football. Swimming at Casino Español. Biking at Family Park in Talamban. Ping-pong. Badminton. And, of course, the game of Li Na … tennis.

Again, I stress: Find an activity that your child likes. Oftentimes, we choose the ballgame that we like. Offer choices.

What happens if your child doesn’t manifest any interest in any form of physical activity? Don’t force it. Not every child is a Justin Chiongbian or an Enzo Ceniza or an Iggy Pantino or a Rhenzi Kyle Sevillano. Not every child is born athletic or sporty. Be patient. Maybe you, as the parent, should first enlist in a sport to be a model to your child! Aim for the camaraderie and fun that your child will get from joining the summer program. Don’t compare. Don’t say, “Look at so-and-so, he’s a champion! You should be like him!” Too much pressure early-on will discourage, not encourage.

Be encouraging. The goal is to motivate and inspire your children so that, as they grow older and without much forcing, they will value the idea that exercise is good.

Friends. Fun. Familiar faces. These are strong influences. Here’s a specific tip: Call the parents of your child’s best friends and make “sabot” so they can enroll together. This is a good idea. But it may also have a negative effect: Your child won’t learn to meet new friends. He’ll be content to mingle with the same circle or barkada.

The point is clear: Get the family moving. Just remember: texting (exercising one’s fingers) is not an exercise!

Samsam Gullas previews the NBA Playoffs

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Play ball! After 82 regular-season games per team that started last October 29, the Sweet Sixteen of the NBA have been selected. It’s the Playoffs, beginning today! It’s two-months-long and eight of the best squads per division (East and West) have advanced. It’s a best-of-seven series per contest. The playoff format is 2-2-1-1-1. This means that games 1, 2, 5 and 7 go to the one with the home-court advantage. And, starting this season, this format (not 2-3-2) will also be used for the NBA Finals.

Can Miami win three in a row? Who will be upset in Round 1? In the KD vs. LBJ contest for the MVP crown, who wins?

I asked Rep. Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas, the former team manager of the UV Green Lancers, for his thoughts. Here’s our Q & A:

What surprised you the most with the NBA’s top 16? “Charlotte Bobcats and Al Jefferson finally playing to his true potential. He finally found a team that he truly fits in. Too bad they’ve got to face the defending champs in the 1st round. New York’s bad record also surprised me. They were one of the top seeds in the East last year and were prepared to make a splash this year. It just never worked out for the Knicks. Carmelo should go the Bulls.”

Who are strongest entering the playoffs? “Miami heat. LeBron will always be a different player when it’s the playoffs. It seems like with every playoff series LeBron’s legacy will always be on the line. He’s just that good that everyone believes he will win the Larry O Brien trophy every year and a Heat exit will be a failure on his part. The Spurs are very strong contenders as well. I believe with great coaching, teamwork and great star play from Parker, Duncan and Ginobli, it’s OKC or Spurs out West.”

What do you think of the first round match-ups; which ones will be the most exciting? “I love great 1on1 match-ups especially GSW and LAC. That’s two of the best point guards of the league going at it in the first round of the playoffs. Houston and Portland seems like a very good matchup as well. Those teams are complete and play with the same mentality. They are well coached and both possess great 1-2 punches. Harden and Howard vs Aldridge and Lillard.”

Predictions? “East is an Indiana-Heat final with Heat winning in six games. They have to because if it’s game 7 on Indiana’s home floor. I don’t like their chances.”

Who are the dark-horse teams? “In the East don’t count out the Chicago Bulls. They are very good defensively and when the game starts to slow down like it does in the playoffs, I believe Chicago even without Derick Rose will give the Heat and Pacers a run for their money.”

MVP: looks like Durant has it locked up? “Locked up, no doubt. He was definitely the most valuable player for his team in the regular season. He carried the load with Westbrook out. Scoring has gone up. Assists are up. And rebounds are up. While shooting close to 50-40-90 from the field.”

What are Miami’s chances to three-peat? They’ve had the ‘worst’ regular season record compared to the previous two years. “I was disappointed that Miami didn’t lock up that number 1 seed. I hope it won’t haunt them if ever they face pacers and the series reaches game 7. But I will never count out a team that holds the best player in the planet. Heat will win against OKC or Spurs in seven or 6.”
For me, I’d always been a star-player fan. When Michael Jordan ruled the air, I was a Bulls follower. When LeBron arrived, I rooted for the Ohio-native. And, the past three years, it’s been Miami. Come June 5th when the NBA Finals begin, I’m hoping for a mano-a-mano face-off between Kevin Durant and LeBron James.

Amale Mendezona Jopson: Ready for the Boston Marathon

A year ago this week, the world was shocked when terrorists detonated twin blasts near the finish line of the most prestigious road-running race on this planet.

“This year’s Boston Marathon is very special as it is the 1st year anniversary of the bombings,” said Amale Mendezona Jopson, who will be among the 36,000 marathoners when the race begins this Monday, April 21.

Amale is a super-achiever. In high school, she was the valedictorian at STC and the classmate of my wife Jasmin, who said, “In everything she does, Amale excels.” In college at the Ateneo, she met Noy Jopson, the super-triathlete. Today, this husband-and-wife duo is possibly the country’s most athletic couple.

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The Boston Marathon is the race for super-fast runners. “It is the end all and be all of marathons, for both elites and age-groupers,” Amale explains. “For one, it is the oldest running annual marathon in the world (since 1897). It brings with it many firsts like the wheelchair division, and the first marathon outside of the Olympics with a woman participant- Roberta Gibb, 1966.”

The qualifying times of the race are the benchmark for runners. “The Boston Athletic Association has had to make the qualifying times more stringent, with more runners qualifying but not able to register because of the demand (the standards were made 5 minutes more stringent in 2012),” Amale said. “The brutal rolling course also makes it thrilling for runners with ‘heartbreak hill’ towards the end of the run. Aside from this, Boston practically shuts down for the event on Patriot’s Day, drawing an estimated 500,000 spectators, with only the Superbowl getting more attention.”

For Amale, who turned 40 last December, her qualifying time was three hours, 45 minutes. She joined the Dong-A Seoul Intl. Marathon last year and narrated: “With one final push as I entered the stadium, I felt like an Olympic athlete finishing the race in 3:42:35 – a good 2 minutes clear of the Boston qualifying time! Crossing the finish line, I was overwhelmed by a rush of emotions and gushing tears. I had reached my goal and I was going to Boston!”

Today, she leaves Cebu with her family for New York, arriving in Boston, the city that houses the Celtics and Red Sox, by Friday.

On her preparation, Amale — the Director of Human Resources at Chong Hua Hospital — cannot be happier. She did a PR in the 21K of the SM2SM race and, she added, had “personal bests across all distances from the mile, speed sessions, tempos (5k, 8k, and 10k) and even strong tempo paced efforts in difficult marathon conditions (Philippine PR of 3:50 at Kawasan, 2nd place and strong finish of 3:56 at SRP midnight marathon, 3rd place).” She’s had no injuries, crediting her weekly strength sessions at Epic Performance.

“All predictors point to a personal best at Boston,” Amale said, “I’m aiming precisely just for that – anything below 3:40 will be make me very happy.”

AMALE JOPSON

The Boston Marathon will welcome 36,000 runners. It’s a 33 percent increase from the 27,000 limit — and the figure includes 4,500 of the 5,624 runners who were still on the road last year when the bombs exploded.

Among the Pinoys, Amale will be joined by US-based Arland Macasieb, brothers Arnie and Anton Aguila, Dino Pison (from Silay), Martin Ledesma (Makati), Geoffrey Perez (Baguio), and Noel Dimabuyo (Quezon City).

This is Amale’s seventh 42K race. She did the 2011 and 2012 California Intl. Marathons; last year, the Cebu and Seoul marathons; this year, the SRP Midnight and Kawasan Falls races.

On Monday, it’s the 118th edition.     “Boston stands for strength and unity in the running community,” she said. “For me, it is symbolic of the triumph of the human spirit, not only for the Boston Strong cause, but personally, I am running this for the Philippines after Yolanda. I am also dedicating this to my maternal grandfather – my Abu, as this is his 2nd birthday anniversary since passing away. My Abu was also an athlete, and he was always encouraging me through my athletic pursuits. I know he will be watching.”

Manny Pacquiao beats Timothy badly

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Hambog. If there’s one thing Timothy Bradley displayed two days ago, it’s this: he’s a showman who loves to taunt, mock, jeer. He’s a boast, not a beast. He was more bravado than brave. He made fun of our congressman. Good thing he didn’t get knocked-out like Anderson Silva. Remember UFC’s greatest fighter, who bragged and gloated on the octagon — only to be promptly KO’d by Chris Weidman?

I was hoping Pacquiao would do the same to the grandstanding and show-off Bradley. (Speaking of UFC, last Sunday I mistakenly wrote “Bruce” Buffer instead of Michael Buffer; it just shows the popularity of UFC, pointed out Nick Torres.)

With Pacman, he has redeemed himself. He lives to fight another fight. “This win was important,” Pacquiao said. “I proved that my boxing journey will continue.” He was Manny The Great; though not the spectacular, unrelenting and pitiless Supermanny of five years ago.

Age matters. When you’re 35 and have logged tens of thousands of hours on the gym, punching and being punched, jabbing and receiving those uppercuts, the body, like any organism and machine, wears out.

Manny was fantastic. He wasn’t outstanding. “He was a little bit slower than I’ve seen in the past,” Freddie Roach said.

Part of it is confidence. In that 15-fight winning streak from 2005 to 2011 when he annihilated Oscar and Ricky and Miguel, his belief and sureness were indisputable. His poise, nerve, resoluteness — beyond assurance. I’m unbeatable, Manny declared then.

Prior to two days ago, he had lost two of three. Understandably, his faith and belief weren’t as strong. But now, after this victory, when he claimed vindication for that burglary in Part I when he was robbed by the judges — his morale has risen.

NO KNOCKOUT. We all wanted to see Bradley lying on the floor. It didn’t happen. Manny hasn’t scored a KO win in 4.5 years. The best explanation? From David Kassel of FightHype.com, who wrote yesterday: “Manny is fighting about 4 weight classes above his most dominant weight. Manny Pacquiao has grown into a welterweight, but he could probably still make weight at 130-135 lbs. He is almost always the smaller guy coming into the ring… Pacquiao, unlike Floyd Mayweather, is offensive-minded, which means he is going to take more punishment to make sure he gets his licks in… his body is worn from taking so many punches from guys who come into fights weighing over 160lbs. Pacquiao’s days of spectacular, one-punch knockouts may be over, and we have to be willing to accept that.”

WHO’S NEXT? Obviously, it’s Part V. Like a Rocky Balboa series which extended all the way to Rocky V (with one more added 16 years later), this one, too, will reach Round 5.

MP & JMM. Mexicutioner vs. Dinamita. There’s unsettled business here. You think, after all those sleepless nights he endured reliving the nightmare, that Manny’s not aching to seek revenge?

Interestingly, I dug-up his full name and it’s Juan Manuel Marquez Mendez. Yes, Mendez! That’s my wife’s maiden name. My father-in-law Atty. Jack Mendez, whose mestizo looks might originate from Mexico, probably won’t deny their affinity. But I’m also sure he won’t mind this Mendez being knocked-out!

Why is Part V a certainty (unless Marquez gets shocked by Mike Alvarado)? There’s even a proposed name: Pacquiao-Marquez V: Once and Five All. Because both are Bob Arum’s players. Speaking of Arum, I had the chance in Macau to speak to him and my dad Bunny has a nice photo with him. This guy is indefatigable. Like Jack Mendez, he’s 82 years old! But his rosy cheeks and always-smiling face would tell you he’s much younger. His favorite pair of shoes, as I witnessed in Macau, were New Balance running shoes.

MOMMY D. Everybody’s raving about Mommy Dionisia. It’s obvious where Manny got his spunk and moxie from. Footages of Mommy D. flashing those fingers while holding a prayer pamphlet elicited lots of comments. On stage, when she not only hugged her son but also embraced Bradley — that was unexpected and wonderful. This mom is groovy. Naay karakter.

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Manny’s victory: Not if, but how

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Like you, I believe that Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao will right the wrong that was inflicted in Part I of the Pacquiao-Bradley encounter. In that June 9, 2012 bout, Manny won almost every one of the 12 rounds contested; but he lost with the six eyeballs that mattered most — the judges.

Not today. Not when Manny knows that a loss will send his Hall of Fame career to The End. Not when Freddie Roach himself declared, “This is a must-win situation.”

He’s fought for 21 years. He’s knocked-out 38 opponents including Erik Morales and Jorge Solis and Ricky Hatton. He’s a multi-billionaire who owns mansions from Forbes Park to Los Angeles. He stands only 5 ft. 6 1/2 in. short but his boxing credentials are the tallest in history: the first and only eight-division world champion.

All these don’t matter today. What matters is this: MP needs a victory. A knockout. Why leave the decision to three subjective human beings?

Here’s what I guarantee: We’ll see a more aggressive, attacking, Mike Tyson-like beast inside MGM today — like he was when he won 15 straight from 2005 to 2011. Manny’s reputation is being questioned. “He’s lost his killer instinct.” “Sobra siya ka buotan karon.” “He’s 35 years very, very old.”

I saw this with my bare eyes last November. Just 11 rows away from the ring, my seat-mates Bunny (my dad) and Jingo (my SunStar neighbor) couldn’t believe how reluctant Manny was to “go for the kill.” Surely, the nightmare of Juan Manuel Marquez’s punch lingered in his mind. Manny was cautious. He wanted a win — by points. Manny has transformed into a good Christian in the wrong sport of boxing.

Not today. At the MGM Grand Garden Arena tonight, Manny will attempt to dispel this notion. He’ll charge. He’ll weave left and right. He’ll pummel that left hook. He’ll poke the boastful Bradley. He’ll jab throwing that right punch. In the end, Pac-Man will weather the Desert Storm.

Boxing is all about Proving. Proving who’s best. Proving whose egotistic words become true. Today, it’s Pacquiao who has more to prove. To us. To Bradley. To himself. To Freddie, who said, “Some people think we are all done and we have to prove that we are not.” To Mommy Dionisia and wife Jinkee, both of whom want him to retire.

WEIGH-IN. Yesterday, I watched footages of the weigh-in. Everybody in the house except for Bradley’s entourage was cheering for Pacquiao. To think that our man is Pinoy fighting an American in the U.S.

I recall the weigh-in of the Pacquiao-Rios fight last November. These weigh-ins start early, at 8 a.m. And it’s rapid-fire fast. The whole event is done in half an hour. One by one in quick succession, the boxers enter the stage, undress, step on that scale and leave. Fast.

Even the main event protagonists don’t linger for long. At yesterday’s weigh-in, when both Manny and Timothy stood side-by-side to flex and reveal their muscles, wow, it was like watching a body-building event. These guys are absolutely ripped! Manny was lean and brawny; Tim’s muscles were sculptured and very defined.

Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley

The excitement of being there at the Weigh-In is indescribable. You’re amongst thousands of screaming Pinoys. Music reverberates. Lights flash and circle the stage. Bruce Buffer’s deep voice echoes. Bob Arum smiles. Then, the Gladiators come face to face, just inches apart, locking eyeball-to-eyeball, playing “psycho” (mental) games.

KNOCKOUT? Today’s fight has the potential to be one of Manny’s greatest ever. If he wins by a spectacular knockout — against an American sporting a 32-0 record — this can rank as not only a “great comeback” but also a vindication. An I-told-you-so and never-count-me-out moment for the humble, Bible-reading Filipino. Bradley has never slept for more than 10 seconds on the Las Vegas canvas. There’s always a first time. Today.

Tips for Tiger

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Two days from now, the world’s top golfers will converge in Augusta, Georgia for the “Super Bowl and Wimbledon of Golf.” It’s The Masters. But “The Master” himself, Tiger Woods, won’t be joining. The 14-major winner and current world number one is injured. Last Sunday, I chronicled a litany of injuries that have befallen the sporting world’s first billionaire. Yes, Tiger is that rich. He’s universally acclaimed as the wealthiest among athletes.

Plus, among golfers, he’s the fittest. Standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 185 lbs., his height and weight are like Rafael Nadal’s. Comparing bicep to bicep, Phil Mickelson will cry with envy.

But sporting an eight-pack abdomen and standing tall and robust like Tiger doesn’t make one injury-free. In fact, it appears that Tiger has spent too much time on the gym.

“He will have to slow down on bulking up and lifting heavy weights off the floor or with his back unsupported by a bench and concentrate instead on conditioning of golf swing specific muscle groups.” Dr. Tony San Juan said those words.

Hank Haney, the former coach of Woods, concurs: “He does a lot of the gym stuff. I know you need to do some for golf, no doubt about it. You need to be in shape, you need to avoid injury, but my opinion is he really overdoes that … He looks like he’s gained more muscle mass. When he was thinner and younger he was actually faster then. The strength maybe helps you get out of the rough but I’d agree that he’s overdone it. But he loves to work out.”

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Last Sunday, top sports and orthopaedic physician Dr. San Juan outlined the reasons why Tiger repeatedly got injured. (Doc Tony is a Class A golfer who started the sport at the age of 8 and whose best handicap is 7; he’s preparing to do multiple triathlon events soon, including the Ironman 70.3 this August.)

I asked Tony if Tiger, after his latest surgery, will be able to play competitive golf in the PGA Tour. His reply? A resounding… “Definitely!” But, for Tiger to compete longer, these are words TW has to heed… Here are Tony’s Tips For Tiger:

1) Less time in the gym (mentioned earlier).

2) “Make a few adjustments to his swing if he were to consider staying in the Tour for several more years.”

3) “Work on precision and course management more than outdriving the opposition and making them eat his dust off the tee. We do know, however, he is one of the best already in the former from years back.”

4) “Execute a shorter swing with less twisting (but potentially more torque as not to compromise distance and power) that comes with a lower risk for more injuries and accelerated wear on his back.”

5) “Go for quality practice rather than quantity practice in the practice tee or range.”

I’m sure Tiger is as frustrated as his fans about his ailments. The reason why Doc Tony is confident Tiger can hurdle all of his afflictions?

Because of his support group. “Tiger has the best possible top-tier team surrounding him, the best that the best golfer can afford — from his caddie to his therapist to his conditioning coach to his swing coach to his sports docs,” he said. “They all have the same aspiration as he does. And like every other Tiger fan, like myself – we’d like to see more of the Sunday Red shirt on the last flight on as many more tournaments and majors in the coming years.”

There’s no doubt that Tiger will be back. The question is: For how long? He’s one of humankind’s greatest competitors. But what use is a strong heart if the body parts are weak?

Interestingly, Dr. Tony mentioned that not all of Tiger’s woes are golf-swing related. “He didn’t tear his ACL on his left knee playing golf,” he said. “While he had the tear, however, Tiger and his golf swing really suffered.”

How did he get injured? He had a misstep and twisted his knee and ankle. While running!

My common sense advice for Tiger? Stick to golf. Quit running, weight-lifting and skirt-chasing.

Tiger Woods, diagnosed by Dr. Tony San Juan

When The Masters begins this Thursday, one name will be missing: the world No. 1.

Golf isn’t like MMA. It’s not like football or basketball where injuries abound. It’s not Pacquiao punching Bradley. Golf is a gentleman’s game. It’s a sport of leisurely walks, effortless 9-iron swings, soft putts, gingerly handshakes. Golf is not a sport of injuries. That’s what I thought.

But Tiger Woods has suffered repeated injuries. Consider these afflictions: Surgery on left knee to remove fluid inside and outside the ACL. Arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair cartilage damage. Two stress fractures of the left tibia. Surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee by using a tendon from his right thigh. MCL sprain. Lower back spasms. And, just last March 31, surgery for a pinched nerve. (Not to mention his head nearly getting chopped off by that golf club swing of his ex-wife Elin!)

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Perplexed at Tiger’s injuries, I sought the advice of the country’s top sports and orthopaedic doctor.

Dr. Jose Antonio San Juan is one of the most in-demand physicians in town. Call his clinic (Cebu Orthopaedic Institute) and you’ll be lucky to get an appointment this week or the next. I queried Doc Tony about Tiger. I asked him not only because of his medical authority but also because he’s a Class A (9-handicap) golfer of the Cebu Country Club.

“First, we weren’t born as immortals or with nine lives,” said Dr. San Juan. “Over time, the use and abuse we have put on our bodies will slowly show its true colors. We can’t deny the fact that there are limits to what our bodies can take from the physical standpoint and such is the point Tiger Woods is in right now.”

Jim Litke (of the AP) explained: “He (Tiger) broke into big-time golf at 20, thin as a 2-iron and swinging with all the abandon of a kid. He putted without nerves, hit the ball farther and passed so many career signposts so breathtakingly fast, and with such ease, that his future seemed to be on cruise-control already. But Woods is 38 now, and despite sparking the fitness craze that revolutionized professional golf, he’s falling apart like a used car.”

Dr. San Juan continues: “Whatever beating and moving parts God has given us only come as one unique part that is irreplaceable even by the most advanced of medical or surgical techniques. Once any of these parts start to malfunction or fall apart whether by injury, wear and tear (degeneration in medical terms), when one overcomes such conditions be it by medication, physical therapy and conditioning or by surgery, they never return to normal despite the fact they may seem or may be used like normal.”

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“Second, while the physicality in golf is not like other contact sports (basketball, MMA – except of course when you get hit by a ball or a wayward club which, by the way, has happened to me), the golf swing is so dynamic and involves practically your whole body from the head down to the toes that repeated swings will definitely lead to injuries or body aches and pains from wear when the basic principles of a good golf swing and conditioning are not followed.”

When a child learns the game of golf at a young age, added Doc Tony, the body adapts to the kind of swing. “Tiger’s swing was very athletic from the start but as he started to get into his late twenties, he realized that the kind of swing he had that was making him bomb 300-yard drives wasn’t going to give him longevity in the PGA Tour.”

Tiger adjusted. He went through several changes. “As Tiger changed swing coaches from Butch Harmon to Hank Haney to Sean Foley,” he said, “his body that had gotten used to certain repeated movements was now adjusting to new dynamics and now causing more wear on body parts that weren’t used to that amount of stress as he was growing up. Unfortunately, it involved body parts that don’t grow back – cartilage in his knees and the cartilage equivalent in his back (intervertebral disc that was pinching his nerve).”

Can Tiger fully recover? Find out the prognosis of Dr. San Juan this Tuesday.

Wakee Salud: ‘Bradley has improved a lot’

pac.penalosa.salud.091024.300wGerry, Manny and Wakee (Photo by Dong Secuya)

I tried calling Gerry Peñalosa yesterday. The ringing tone sounded different, like the call was international. Hours later, I found out why.

“Hi John. Sorry msd ur call. How are you? im here in LA now.”

I wanted to unlock the thoughts of one of Pinoy boxing’s greatest fighters, the man termed by Freddie Roach as “the country’s best ever technical boxer.”

We didn’t talk. Maybe for another column.

I next tried Rex Salud. You know Wakee. He’s Manny Pacquiao’s best friend. They’ve been together since 2005 when, after Manny’s loss to Erik Morales, the Cebuano invited the boxer to Lapu-Lapu City for wild nights of cock-fighting, Casino gambling, drinking, and a myriad of other extra-curriculars.

Like Gerry, the ringback tone sounded international. No response. Minutes later, a message popped, “nasa us na.”

I called. “I’ve been here since March 19,” said Wakee. “I’m now in Los Angeles.”

Each day, he gets to see Manny. “When I arrived, Manny had bouts of colds, coughing and he had a slight fever,” Wakee said. “This week, good that he’s able to recover.”

He explained the brutal practice sessions of Manny, each one lasting up to four hours. “Maayo (Good),” Wakee said, describing the training sessions. “Doble ang (Double the) power compared to the Rios fight.”

Wakee has not missed a live Pacman fight since 2005. That’s nine years ago. Since then, Manny won 15 straight bouts up until June 2012 when he lost to Timothy Bradley. Manny lost again to Juan Manuel Marquez.

15 consecutive wins. Two subsequent losses. A win last November. Every one of those 18 bouts, Wakee Salud was present at Manny’s corner. Including the one to come next Sunday.

Of that Rios fight four months ago in Macau, I spotted Wakee on multiple occasions accompanying Manny and his entourage. An hour before Manny stepped inside the ring, Wakee passed our seating area. We chatted. Forever the optimist, he was confident of MP. Next weekend is no different.

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Doble gyud ang preparation ni Manny,” he said. “All-out siya karon.”

By “all-out,” Wakee means that the Sarangani Congressman is taking zero chances against an opponent who defeated him the last time. “Timothy Bradley has improved a lot,” said Wakee. “He defeated Ruslan Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez. He’s even better now.”

Bradley sports a spotless record. If he wins next week, that’s 32 straight W’s. “Manny cannot underestimate Bradley,” added Wakee. These are humbling words from the operator of the RWS (Rex Wakee Salud) gym in Labangon — the spot where Manny trained in 2007 for his bout against Marco Antonio Barrera.

I say “humbling” because when I first asked Wakee the same question two years ago prior to Pacquiao-Bradley Part I, he told me: “No chance for Bradley. Easy fight for Manny.”

That was in 2012. Now, it’s different. It’s all-serious. All out. The aim, obviously, is to put to sleep Bradley. “For sure, Manny will go for the knockout,” he said. “That’s the goal. But even if he doesn’t, he will win by decision.”

The question I failed to ask Mr. Salud is this: Granted that Manny wins, that’s well and good. Smiles will be plastered on the faces of the 100 million Filipinos worldwide. A victory parade beside Erap will encircle the streets of Manila.

But, the big, WHAT IF? What if he gets robbed a second time? By the judges? Or simply by a better — and, at the age of 30, a younger — fighter?

What if ang atong manok ma-pildi? Manny’s on a decline, no doubt. He’s lost two of his last three with the lone win coming against a weak Rios.

Let’s see. Let’s not jump to negative possibilities. I guess the answer would be: It depends on how he loses, if ever. If it’s via knockout — which is so unlikely, given Bradley’s record of only 12 KOs in 31 fights — then it’s surely game over for MP.

But we expect a win. We hope for it. We pray to God that His renewed son will be triumphant. For now, it’s just counting down the days. Day 10, 9, 8…