Category Archives: Boxing

Near-death tragedy turns into blessing for Z

“Gorres is okay,” said Michael Aldeguer, the president of ALA Promotions, when we spoke yesterday. “He just has a problem with the left side of his face. It’s not paralyzed but it’s not functioning normal yet. But you can talk to him. His mind is sharp and he communicates well. He remembers everything. He has no memory loss. He even makes jokes. But Z is still having a hard time walking. He can walk only for several meters. I talked to him five days ago and we were discussing when he’s coming home. He misses his kids a lot. I asked if he wanted to come home now and he said, ‘Sir, not yet. I don’t want my kids to see me like this.’”

The long-awaited return of our Cebuano hero? It’s late February or early March.

“Miracle,” added Michael. “It was a miracle. I was there all the time. It was one of the most severe cases they ever had, said the doctors. I couldn’t forget this because I slept at the hospital when all this happened. And you know that the doctors opened him up without delay. It was scary. It came to a point when the doctor told me, ‘We did what we had to do. But we’re not sure if he can make it.’ In fact, not many do make it. To me, I couldn’t imagine what would have happened.

“But something good is happening with the unfortunate case of Z. Because we met Frank Slaughter, who is a retired fighter and he’s with a nonprofit boxing organization. He’s talking to the Nevada authorities with the hope that a new state bill will raise the insurance amount of $50,000. That amount is too small.”

The total bill for Z? Just with the University Medical Center (UMC) hospital?

It’s 550,000. Pesos? I asked Mike. “Dollars,” he said. That’s $550,000 or over P26,000,000. “And that’s just for the UMC hospital. That excludes the expenses for the rehab in the U.S. and the rehab when Z’s back to Cebu which might take between six months to one year,” said Michael.

“Good thing plenty are helping. There’s Frank Slaughter, there’s Dr. Ben Calderon, Tony Martin and his wife, Yvonne, and so many more. A group from the U.S. has also launched a website that accepts donations for Z. This site is www.ZGorres.info. We will also soon, here in the Philippines, provide everyone with Z’s account number so donations can be sent straight to their family’s account.”

“Also, Manny Pacquiao has communicated with us and is looking at a mid-February target for a benefit dinner,” he said. “According to interviews, Manny hopes to raise $500,000 in that charity dinner for Z. That would be a great, great help. Right now, with the $550,000 amount, we’re working with Top Rank to pay that off… they have the means. We’re also talking with the insurance companies. We have to come up with something. What’s good is this incident has caused massive awareness, especially in Nevada, where they hold fights every week.”

Mr. Aldeguer then e-mailed me an article published in the state’s top newspaper, Las Vegas Review-Journal, with a full-length story on Z’s catastrophe and his problem with paying the medical bills.

“People have taken notice. The UMC Hospital CEO has spoken. Same with the Nevada State chairman. Boxing promoters make a lot of money and they have to ensure that boxers are well taken-cared of. Many people only see the good side of boxing… but it’s a brutal sport,” said Mike.

“This is our quest now. To help push for this bill. This will be good for the sport. This will be good for the boxers. Because what happened to Z will happen again.

“Even around Asia, where there are plenty of irresponsible fighters, there is awareness now after the scare with Z. Some fighters from Thailand or Indonesia get involved in mismatches. These are very scary. Now, some boxing commissions are getting stricter; they’re reviewing thoroughly the sanctioning of fights. They’re also ensuring that fighters are medically-prepared before they fight. This is the good that has come out of the bad. God has a purpose for Z.”

Visit ZGorres.info.

Bidoy Aldeguer: ‘Prayers of millions helped Z’

Zeta Celestino Oliveros Gorres, or “Buchoy” to his close friends and family, is known to us by only one letter: Z. Nine days ago, a terrifying incident happened. At the Mandalay Bay House of Blues—on an eerie Friday the 13th—Z Gorres won his fight but then collapsed. Z was in Zzzzs. He was in a coma. His condition was critical. Would Z survive? The Filipinos awaited, both anxious and prayerful.

That was then. Today, we know Z is in stable condition. Yesterday morning, I spoke to Antonio Lopez Aldeguer. “Z is progressing rapidly. Remarkably well,” said Aldeguer. “Michael (ALA’s son) is monitoring him day to day. To summarize his recovery in one word, it’s remarkable.”

ALA knew about Z’s collapse seconds after it happened. “Michael called me right away. At first, we thought it was over-fatigue. It wasn’t the case. I knew it was worse when he was in the Coma Center. I was very, very worried. As you know, I’ve had lots of incidents in the past. From other boxers. What gave me confidence was that Z was in the hospital’s trauma center that is one of the best in the world. And the physician operating on Z was a top surgeon. As you know, Las Vegas has probably, in the whole America, the highest rate of coma incidents.”

Did the thought of Z possibly not making it enter your mind? “Not even for a moment. I did not entertain the idea. Maybe because of my strong faith in God. But what came into mind what was, ‘What am I supposed to do? Should I quit boxing?’ And those thoughts have come to mind several times in the past… When Z lost a bad decision before, in our own backyard. When Boom-Boom was knocked-out in the first round. When Banal quit when he was way ahead. And now, this, to Z.

“But what strengthened me was when I realized, ‘If I quit, it’s because the reason is selfish. I’m thinking only of my sentiments. That I’d be relieved of my responsibilities, of the stress, of losing money, that all this doesn’t pay off.’ But then I asked myself, What is all this for? I know I love boxing. And when I weighed things, I knew the answer was no. I couldn’t quit. How about boxers who’ll come to me and ask, ‘How about us, sir? What will happen to our dreams?’

“I also never doubted God’s grace. The outpouring of sentiments was amazing. We never expected it to be this way. We were getting a lot of sympathies and consoling words from so many people. The one factor that sustained us all, that sustained Z, was the millions who prayed for him. Even the doctor said it was miraculous. For most people, it may take months to respond. For Z, it was days.

“We all gathered in Sto. Niño Church that Saturday afternoon when Z was in critical condition. The boxers, the employees. We were surprised to find a TV crew there; I don’t know how they knew. We prayed. The next day, Z’s wife, Datches, and the others went to Simala. Everybody prayed. The nation prayed. Then, last Tuesday, we had a Thanksgiving mass because at that stage we knew Z was removed from serious condition.”

Z started with ALA when he was only nine. “His elder brother, Jun, was already with me as a boxer. And so it was natural for Z to follow. Z stayed with us in our home in Ma. Luisa. He grew up with us while studying in Banilad Elem. School, in UV Mandaue and for college in UV,” he said.

“Every boxer, athlete, has tantrums. There are times when mang luod-luod. When a boxer is reducing his weight, he’s not eating normally and it upsets his mood. But, in all of my years of training, I have never seen Gorres get mad. Not even once. He’s always smiling.

“Also, his character. To me, in my dealings with people, if I hear someone talk bad about another, I lose respect for that person. With Z, I never heard him say anything bad about anyone. He is good, kind, gentle. He’s quiet. Respectful. And you should see his children and wife… they’re all well-dressed, clean. Z is one of a kind. And so, whenever I get asked about Z, I don’t emphasize on his boxing. There are plenty of good boxers. I emphasize on Z as a good person.”

Bruce Lee in Boxing Shorts

He wore red, high-cut boots by Nike with the words “PACQUIAO” and “MANNY” etched at the back. His black shorts were printed with yellow flames. A gray sleeveless Nike shirt covered his chest while a green pair of gloves wrapped his hands.

Last Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., accompanied by the country’s top boxing writer—Salven Lagumbay of philboxing.com and the Philippine Daily Inquirer—I stepped inside RP’s most famous gym today, owned by Rex “Wakee” Salud.

Manny Pacquiao had just finished 10 rounds of sparring. Tired? Did he look fatigued? No. How about recharged? Or pumped-up? For one-and-a-half hours, I observed Manny. After sparring, Manny stepped down the ring then proceeded to pummel the double-end bag. He stared at the round leather that hung from the ceiling, encircled it, threw quick jabs, moved his head left, ducked, stepped back, forward. Continue reading Bruce Lee in Boxing Shorts

Baguio or Mexico? I’d listen to Coach Roach

Freddie with Atty. Jingo Quijano

The Phil Jackson of boxing, the three-time Trainer of the Year who’s trained Mike Tyson, Bernard Hopkins, Gerry Peñalosa and actor Mickey Rourke, is “pissed.” They treat me, he says, like “sh*#.”

His nickname, interestingly, is “Choir Boy” and, since he’s done a duet with the Greatest Filipino Sportsman Of All Time, they’ve produced perfect music together. Diaz. Marquez. Barrera. De La Hoya. Morales. Hatton. Name it, the Pacquaio-Roach one-two duet today is like the Phil Jackson-Michael Jordan duo of the 1990s. Continue reading Baguio or Mexico? I’d listen to Coach Roach

MP’s secret is spelled MP

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MP (center) with, from left, Jun Migallen, Girlie Garces, John Pages, Gerry Peñalosa, Michael Aldeguer, Jingo Quijano and Raffy Osumo during the Cebu Sports Awards

Speed. Power. Stamina. Muscle. A 60-day-long training regimen that’s unmatched in boxing. A Hall of Fame coaching wonk named Freddie Roach. These components, plus more, are essential in making our RP hero the boxing world’s No. 1. But, to me, what is the most significant reason why Pacman will knockout Hitman today?

His belief. His conviction. His assuredness. His confidence. You see, while boxing is humankind’s bloodiest entertainment, while one employs two fists to wallop and thump and slaughter one enemy, while boxing is the most physical of all physical endeavors—here’s the untold secret: It’s not about the muscle. It’s about the mind.

Boxing is mental. It’s a face-to-face battle between one brain versus another. It’s a mental warfare to determine who, psychologically, is strongest. And, when we speak of who has a mind that is most determined, most omnipotent, most durable and most resolute, the answer comes in two initials: MP. Mind Power. Manny Pacquiao. Continue reading MP’s secret is spelled MP

The Furious, The Flash, The King Cobra

If Chris Aldeguer—whose brother is ALA Boxing Promotions President Michael and whose dad is Antonio Lopez Aldeguer—sends you a text message at 11:58 a.m. saying, “(It’s) one of the best fights I’ve ever seen,” then you ought to sit down and watch.

Chris, you see, has witnessed a torrent of fights, both inside their Talamban-based ALA Gym and at the glittering City of Las Vegas—including two of the grandest blockbusters in history: the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Oscar de la Hoya 2007 tussle and, just last December 6, Manny Pacquiao’s demolition job on the recently-retired ODLH.

Last Sunday morning, as part of his birthday celebration the night before, Chris watched “The Flash and The Furious” at the Araneta Coliseum. With his “best fight I’ve seen” comment, the young Mr. Aldeguer, of course, was referring to the Brian Viloria against Ulises Solis hostility.

What a quarrel! While we all thought Brian Viloria was a “has-been,” a fighter who didn’t possess even 1/14th of Manny Pacquiao’s bravery, what we saw two afternoons ago was startling. Continue reading The Furious, The Flash, The King Cobra

Live boxing beats a television box

Ever watched live boxing? You should. No, you have to! I’m not joking. You and I watch prizefights on TV. We all do. Who hasn’t seen our national hero, Dr. Emmanuel D. Pacquiao, on a live telecast at the MGM Grand? We all watch.

But in-the-flesh boxing? With your two eyes? It’s a must. Take last Saturday night at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino. Four couples went out on a quadruple date: not to watch the movie “Taken” at the Ayala Cinema or to stargaze and hold hands at Tops or to drink vodka and dance until 2:30 a.m. at Loft. No. Holding hands, we watched boxing. Live. In the flesh.

Chris Aldeguer and his beauteous wife Nia invited our barkada of marathoners—Frederic and Millette Chiongbian, Meyrick and Perl Jacalan, myself and Jasmin—to a slugfest smorgasbord. Continue reading Live boxing beats a television box

Eight top sporting stories of 2008

As 48 hours remain of the year that brought us 8-8-8, here are, in my opinion, the world’s most celebrated sports stories….

8) 8-8-8: Beijing. Wasn’t it symbolic? Perfect? That their revered number “8” would be their land’s first-ever Olympics? At 8 p.m.? On the eighth day? Of the eighth month? Of the century’s eighth year? As we all look back at the 17 Olympic days, this we can conclude: No other event was bigger-spent, had a more overwhelming Opening Ceremony, and an almost flawless execution than in Beijing. Continue reading Eight top sporting stories of 2008

PacMan vs. Hitman: Man, will this be a clash!

Wembley Stadium, according to Wikipedia, “is the largest stadium in the world with every seat under cover.” Having hosted football’s most honored trophies—the FIFA World Cup and the EUFA Champions League—it seats a massive 90,000. Will Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton stand at the giant coliseum’s center to brawl? No, answers Bob Arum. The 77-year-old promoter wants the fight held at it’s usual stage: LV. “With Manny’s following in Asia and Ricky’s support in Europe,” he says, “you could say Las Vegas is the center of everything.” Continue reading PacMan vs. Hitman: Man, will this be a clash!

ALA says: ‘No excuses, he wanted it more’

From Sun.Star Cebu
From Sun.Star Cebu

When Antonio Lopez Aldeguer speaks, you listen. Yesterday morning, exactly 36 hours after his most prized apprentice, AJ “Bazooka” Banal, collapsed in one of Cebu’s monumental upsets, I listened.

When I asked how he felt, ALA didn’t suppress his feelings.

“Very, very low,” he replied.

Understandably so. AJ Banal, only 19, lived half of his life with the Aldeguers. Residing in Brgy. Ermita, he was plucked from the doldrums and hand-picked as The Chosen One. To the ALA clan, he’s “a member of our family.”

How is AJ? I asked. “He’s doing okay,” Mr. Aldeguer said. “He’ll be out of the hospital today. Nothing serious, no injuries.”

What transpired next was an 11-minute phone conversation I had with ALA, whose insights and acumen are unmatched in boxing.

What happened? I queried. “His body collapsed,” ALA said. “He allowed himself to be hit. AJ took a lot of punches to the liver. He received too many body punches.”

Should the referee, I inquired, have stepped in more to stop Concepcion from punching while they were locked together?

“I don’t want to make that as an alibi,” he said. “AJ just got hit and hit in the body. AJ should not have held Concepcion’s arm and allowed him to box him using his other hand.”

Excuses, you see, ALA despises. Always, he is direct and candid.

Over-trained? Was AJ? “No,” he said. “I’ve been reading a lot of reports saying that. That’s not true. On the matter of conditioning, AJ was better conditioned. Factor one: AJ’s weight was a perfect 115 lbs. The opponent? He had to shed 1 ½ lbs. the day before. The week before the fight, Concepcion also had to reduce weight. Next, jet lag, which Concepcion had to endure. Plus, we were at our place (Cebu) while the opponent had to adjust to the hotel, to the food…”

When I mentioned to ALA that, based on many reports, AJ Banal was superbly trained—and that’s why his looking fatigued starting the 7th round was perplexing—he agreed.

“AJ is actually the perfect athlete to train,” he said. “He is very dedicated and disciplined. He is a good boy. And his attitude is fantastic. His mistake was that he allowed himself to be hit.”

In that 10th round, I next asked Mr. Aldeguer, we all saw that AJ stood up right after the referee’s 10th count. Why didn’t he stand before the final count and, instead, run around to exhaust the remaining 25 seconds?

“We don’t know what’s on his mind,” said ALA. “Yes, he was winning comfortably in points and could have easily won the fight had he stayed on. But we don’t know. Only AJ can answer that. We don’t know what he was thinking at that point.”

As to Rafael Concepcion? Like all of us who witnessed the fight at the jam-packed Cebu Coliseum—and to the tens of thousands more who watched on TV—ALA was all praises for “El Torito.”

“Concepcion wanted it more,” said ALA. “No excuses. We lost the fight because the other guy wanted it more.”

True. In boxing, more than any other sport because it’s one-on-one, that adage is unquestionable: Whoever wants it more wins. And, last Saturday, the Panamanian had more guts, tenacity, spirit.

Asking where he was inside the Cebu Coliseum because I didn’t see him, Aldeguer replied, “You’ll never see me near the ring. I watched fronting the TV because I can analyze the fight better. Also, I don’t want the limelight. I don’t want the TV focus. In my 20 plus years in boxing, I’ve never stood beside the ring. I’ve never gotten up the ring. I want the honor to go to the boxers.”

Finally, I asked, “What, to you, is failure? You’ve witnessed, through the decades, a lot of defeats in boxing. How do you define failure?”

His answer, as expected, was awe-inspiring. An ALA to AJ admonition, he said: “You never reach the top unless you reach the bottom.”

On ‘Laban na Banal,’ a Q & A with Michael A

Last night at 6:30 p.m., I spoke to one man who’s largely responsible for the mega-production that Cebuanos will witness this Saturday: the WBA interim super flyweight championship battle between Panama’s Rafael Concepcion and Cebu’s AJ Banal.

Michael Aldeguer. The president of ALA Gym, I spoke to Michael over the phone last night about this weekend’s fight….

What makes AJ Banal, I asked, special?

“His IQ for the game,” said Michael. “He’s only 19 but, compared to others, he’s advanced. He also has excellent all-around skills. Plus, AJ’s ability to adapt to any style. He can change tactics depending on his opponent’s style.”

Is it true, I next asked, that this early on AJ is being labeled as the “next Pacquiao?” Continue reading On ‘Laban na Banal,’ a Q & A with Michael A

Jonathan Davis, top boxing judge, speaks

I had to call. I had to seek the opinion of this highly-esteemed Filipino boxing judge. And so yesterday, at 5 p.m., I called.

Jonathan Davis, 58, first sat on that high chair beside the ring with pen and paper on hand in 2002. Since then, he has presided as judge over 400 fights. “When Flash Elorde fought and I was in high school,” said Davis in our 20-minute telephone conversation, “I’ve been doing my own boxing scoring.”

Continue reading Jonathan Davis, top boxing judge, speaks

Lucky (or Unlucky) 13 for Manny?

Today is Manny Pacquiao’s 13th boxing fight in America.

I looked up “13” in Wikipedia and it brimmed with dozens of “Unlucky 13” versus “Lucky 13” examples. For instance: Some airlines skip a row 13, many buildings don’t have a 13th floor, and the Code of Hammurabi (ca. 1760 B.C.) does not contain a 13th law.

Lucky 13? Sure… Wilt Chamberlain, Alex Rodriguez and Dan Marino wore jerseys number “13.” And, in Italy, guess what their lucky number is? Thirteen.

Continue reading Lucky (or Unlucky) 13 for Manny?