For Z, more Zzzz’s before The Dream

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

This was then.

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

Manny Pacquiao was booed!

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

Manny Pacquiao was booed!

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

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

And then another round of boos…

Boo, Manny!

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

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

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

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

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

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

He had Montiel him. Almost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categorized as Boxing

In this bad news world, it’s good to do good

Past 1 p.m. last Thursday, four good people landed at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport. They wore T-shirts and shorts, carried 11 oversize bags loaded with yellow Penn balls, and they each hand-carried a special gift for us: their big, warm smiles.

Elmer Dolera, Ted Sayrahder, Kevin Young, and Joy Riley are good. They’re so good that they flew thousands of miles from their homeland—the United States—to be with us. Here on vacation? On a business venture? Arrived to invade the dark, smoke-infested bars in search of topless girls? No. They’re good, remember?

These four good visitors landed in Cebu for a different swing: To teach tennis. Yes. Tennis. In the U.S., they’re what you call “tennis pros.” And they’re not just ordinary pros—they’re some of the best from the West to the East Coast.

Did they arrive to get paid green bucks? Thousands of dollars deposited in their bank accounts for this trip? No. They’re good, remember?

They came to Cebu on their own, without pay, leaving behind their spouses and children, losing hundreds of dollars of income during their several weeks-long stay here—to teach tennis, to share their expertise, to do good.

Isn’t that good? Yes, very good. No wonder they’re called the “Goodwill Tennis Tours.” Their objective is to promote friendship and closer ties between the U.S. and our country through tennis.

Elmer Dolera started it all back in 1999. A Filipino-American born and raised in California but whose parents originated from Tubigon, Bohol, Elmer had visited Cebu thrice before ’99 and, each time he arrived, longed for a project to help his native land.

Why not tennis? he asked. Why not import a top U.S. coach for a few weeks, find some local trainers, and mix them? Why not do good?

So Elmer contacted Ted Sayrahder, a USPTA P1 and USA High Performance Coach—one of the top in the whole of America—they flew together and, since 1999, have been back and forth several times and visited places like Boracay, Palawan, Bohol, and Iloilo.

Fast forward to last Thursday. The coaches arrived in Cebu after conducting workshops in Gingoog City, Butuan, Camuguin Island, Malaybalay, and Davao. But this time, instead of just Elmer and Ted, they invaded Cebu with two more top pros, Joy Riley and Kevin Young.

Kevin Young? Man, he’s good. He’s a good man. And, he’s a very, very good tennis coach. Back in Washington State, he runs a huge 12-court facility in Vancouver with hundreds of children and adult netters. His official title? Master RCW (Recreational Coaches Workshop) National Trainer—one of only six in the whole United States!

Good? Nah. Very, very good.

Joy Riley is a beauty. She stands over 5-foot-10 with long, flowing blonde hair and the body of a Steffi Graf. A varsity swimmer in college, she has since shifted to tennis and is an RCW National Trainer and PTR Pro.

What did the Goodwill Tennis Tours do? From Friday to Sunday last week, each morning from 8:30 to 11:30 they taught Cebu’s top coaches. Nearly 60 locals showed up wearing tennis shorts and tennis shoes and tennis rackets. They trooped to the Casino Espanol and joined the Recreational Coaches Workshop. On court, they danced, sprinted for bouncing balls, smacked forehands. They listened, laughed, learned.

In the afternoons, it was all-children. Twenty of Cebu’s best juniors participated—including names you read each week on this space: Sally Mae Siso (who, this year, is the youngest Cebu City Charter Day awardee), her brother Nino Siso, No.1 junior star Jacob Lagman, and 16-year-old champ Francis Largo. For over two hours each afternoon, they joined the Elite Juniors Program. They sprinted for drop shots, smashed lobs, and sweated enough sweat to transform the tennis court into a swimming pool.

I spent hours watching. What single lesson, in my opinion, did I learn most? Three letters: FUN.

Those three letters are the most important letters in the sports alphabet. Think about it. In golf, for example, what use is teaching a child the proper grip if she’s not having fun? In basketball, what use is teaching the behind-the-back dribble is he’s not smiling?

Fun, Fun, Fun. Coaches, remember that.

Back to Joy, Kevin, Ted and Elmer: these are good guys. Really good guys. They’re passionate. They laugh on court and dance with the children and jump for joy. They’re in love with tennis, with life, and, from what I’ve heard them say, with Cebu.

To you guys: Thank you… Salamat!

Categorized as Tennis

Be the world champ, not a chump

Manny Pacquiao is joining politics. Can you believe that? He said so himself: “It’s no longer a question of ‘If,’” he was quoted as saying, “it’s a question of ‘What position.’” Can you believe that?

I can’t. As much as I try to decipher what’s ticking inside Manny’s brain, I can’t understand it. I mean, why would a very young man, in a decent profession making decent money, run for a position salivated at by old men? Is it because, as some say, “Time’s running out?” Time’s not running out. Manny’s only 29 years old! That’s young. Too young, in fact, for public office. Why be in such a hurry?

The worse thing is, as we all know, running for politics and running for boxing isn’t the same running. They clash. Like Rum and Milo, they don’t mix. One running forces you to smile, the other forces you to cry. And here’s the truth: If you run for politics, you can’t run on the road. You can’t focus. You’ll spend all your time shaking people’s hands, delivering speeches, creating TV commercials, plugging yourself on radio ads. You’ll spend hours and days and weeks and months running for politics. Not running on the road. Not jabbing at those mitts. Not working on upper-cuts. Not pummeling the bags. Not boxing.

And isn’t Manny a boxer?

To start with, what qualifies him to run for office? His school background? Ha-ha. His oratorical skills? He-he. His decades in public service? Ho-ho.

His name. Oh, yeah, his name! How can I forget his name. That’s what qualifies Manny to be a mayor. His name. Well, here’s my advice. Since he’s got such a powerful name (some same stronger than the letters GMA), then why doesn’t he just run for the highest position vacant on May 14…

Senator Emmanuel Dapigran Pacquaio. Doesn’t it sound good? And fitting? Doesn’t it befit a world-champion? If I were Manny, becoming mayor of GenSan, the tuna capital of this part of the earth, why, that’s small fish. Go for the whale. The Great White Whale position. Run for senator!

Running for senator entails cash, lots of cash. Money. Does money need Manny? Manny need money? No, Manny doesn’t need money. He’s got many. With Danding Cojuangco and San Miguel Beer filling his barrel, with Motolite behind his behind, with Burlington on his feet—how can Manny lose?

Senator Emmanuel Dapigran Pacquaio. I like it.

But back to running for GenSan mayor, which Manny appears to aspire for. You know what he’s doing? He’s doing the same thing to the Pedro Acharon, the incumbent GenSan mayor, that he did to Oscar de la Hoya. Remember the Golden Boy?

Here’s what Manny did: Months back, he sat down with Oscar over a steak dinner, listened to him, nodded his head, they shook hands, he signed the contract, and promised to be Golden Boy’s “Golden Boy.” Then—only weeks after—Manny punched Oscar. (Good thing it wasn’t, literally, a punch or else Manny would have been KO’d.)

Back to Mayor Acharon, if Manny runs against him, he’s doing the same thing. You see, Manny was like the mayor’s adopted son. He was the sponsor during his wedding to Jinkee. He sat at ringside in Las Vegas—upon Manny’s personal invitation, of course—to cheer. He was at the blessing of his mansion and at the baptism of his daughter.

And then Manny punches the mayor by running against him? Ouch! Is that how Manny is now? Just because he’s world champ?

Bad, bad decision. And hasn’t our hero been making bad decision after bad decision lately? Signing with Bob Arum instead of Oscar? Bad decision. He knows it. We know it. Had he signed with Oscar, he’d be fighting at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas against Marco Antonio Barrero. But because he signed with Arum, Manny’s fighting we-don’t-know-who on we-don’t-know-when at we-don’t-know-where.

Macau? Is that where he’s fighting? There’s no ready coliseum there. Only slot machines. Texas? Is that the new venue? Ha-ha-ha. Will George W. Bush be at attendance? The last time I heard of a fight in Texas, it was ‘em cowboys.

Here’s my point: I love Manny. You love Manny. Every single being on this planet with Filipino blood circulating in his system loves Manny. Is he going to throw it all away because he wants to shift careers and join the dirty, pollution-infested politics?

Manny, please: Forget politics. Forget it. No one’s stopping you from jumping into that foray—but do it later. Not now. Not when you ought to be inside the gym and not on the podium, not when we need a hero and not a thief, not when you’re, lest you forget, the world boxing champion.

Roger vs. Tiger: Is one better than the other?

Macky Michael plays golf. He started when he was eight years old at the Cebu Country Club. On his very first tournament, at 10 years of age, he won it! That was back in 1982.

Fast forward to six months ago, an uncle of mine from Laguna arrived and I invited Macky to join us for 18 holes. His score that afternoon? A gross 71. Even par. Wow. Today, he owns an 8-handicap that would be much lower if he played more than once a week. He’s Class-A in golf.

Macky Michael plays tennis. Like golf, he started at eight years of age. Same place, the Country Club. Now, he owns a Western-grip forehand that propels the ball forward. He can slice or topspin that backhand cross-court and his serve resembles that of John McEnroe’s. He’s Class-A at tennis.

And so I asked Macky, a close friend whom I’ve played singles tennis with the past 15 years, and one of the rare few in Cebu today who play golf and tennis each week—and who’s Class-A at both—the question, “Who’s better? Tiger or Roger?”

Just by their first names, you know them.

“Tiger Woods,” says Macky, “is no doubt the greatest-ever golfer. Jack Nicklaus may have more majors (he has 18), but it’s only a question of time before Tiger wins more than 20.”

“Roger Federer,” adds Macky, “is, to me, the best tennis player ever.” Macky’s previous “best-ever” was Pete Sampras. But in head-to-head combat, Roger has more artillery. His backhand is better, he’s quicker around the court, and has a stronger baseline game.

Golf or tennis? Which is more difficult, I asked Macky.

“With tennis, you have to be very fit. If you’re playing singles and you’re Class-A, you have to be in great shape. Not so in golf. You can be out of shape but still be good in golf. Between the ages of 13 and 21, I stopped playing golf. But when I came back—and that’s eight years of not having hit a ball–it wasn’t hard at all. As long as you have the golf swing, it’s fast. With tennis, if you’re unfit, you can’t play at a high level.”

“What makes golf difficult,” Macky says, “are the obstacles. Lakes. Sand traps. You can drive the ball 300 yards but if it lands on a bad lie, then it’s bad. Tennis is easier because it’s the same court all the time. Although Wimbledon may be on grass and the French Open may be on clay, it’s still the same dimensions, the same court.”

Tiger or Roger?

“Achievement-wise,” he said, “I’d say it’s a tie. Both are the same. What Roger did last year (winning three of four Grand Slam titles and carrying a 92-5 win-loss record) can be matched by what Tiger did back in 2000 when he made the Tiger Slam. In total number of majors, they’re not so far apart. Roger has 10 Grand Slam titles while Tiger has 12.”

But herein lies the difference, said Macky: Tiger will surely win many, many more Grand Slam titles than Roger. Why? Because even if Tiger is older (he’s 31 years old versus 25 for Roger), in golf there is longevity. “Look at Vijay Singh. Two years ago, he was world no.1. He’s 43 years old today. That’s impossible for tennis. With golf, it’s very possible that 10 years from now, Tiger is still winning slams and is the world no.1. With Roger, three years from now he’ll no longer be world no.1. In golf, at 40 years old, you’re still peaking. In tennis, once you’ve reached 30 years old, you’re old. It’s the nature of golf and tennis.”

The physical aspect. The athleticism. That’s what separates tennis from golf, Macky adds. “Charles Barkley once said in an interview with Bob Costas, ‘The last guy in the worst NBA team who just sits on the bench is a far better athlete than Tiger Woods.’ And it’s true. From an athletic standpoint, you can’t compare Tiger to a very athletic Roger. The definition of an athlete is one who has superior physical skills (strength, agility, endurance). Unfortunately, golf doesn’t allow you to showcase your endurance or stamina. On athleticism, Roger definitely beats Tiger. On the physical side of sports, I’d rather compare Roger with Michael Jordan.”

“That’s why,” Macky explains, “as much as I enjoy golf, but purely on the exercise point-of-view, one hour of tennis is better than five hours of golf.”

The Masters or Wimbledon? A golf major or a tennis Grand Slam title? Which is harder to win?

“A golf major,” says Macky. “With tennis, you win seven matches to win a Grand Slam title. In golf, you have to shoot the best score for the whole event for four days! Against everybody else! That’s much tougher. Also, in tennis, you can play bad, for example, in one match but still barely escape with a five-set victory. The good thing is, you’re still in contention. Your previous day score gets erased. Not in golf. At the pro level, you can’t have a bad day. Tiger rarely has a bad day. If one shoots 8-over for the day, you can’t erase that score. It’s added up. Not like tennis.”

Conclusion? The winner?

Why don’t we just let them play chess.

Categorized as Tennis