When Daniel Ponce de Leon dismantled and pulverized an explosive firecracker named Boom-Boom in a first-round KO last August 11, he didn’t just flatten Rey Bautista—he devastated him, humiliated his ego, extinguished his spirit. So much trauma ravaged the previously-undefeated Boholano that when he landed from a half-day-long flight from America to Manila, Boom-Boom sat terrified. Upon his arrival at NAIA—with his fellow boxers who just steamrolled past Mexico, 5-1, to clinch the “World Cup of Boxing”—Bautista didn’t want to step out the tarmac and face the crowd.
Daniel Ponce De Leon
“Boom-Boom was embarrassed,” said Antonio Lopez Aldeguer. “As team captain, he knew that he let his teammates down, that he let the country down… he was ashamed.”
But while Bautista emerged with his head bent down, the crowd acted otherwise. “They gathered around and cheered him,” said Aldeguer, “more than all the other boxers combined.”
Still, that wasn’t enough to uplift Boom-Boom. When he arrived in Cebu, again he longed not to face the faces of his sparring mates at the ALA Gym.
Next, when they landed in Bohol, added Aldeguer, “that was the worst.” Tagbilaran City Mayor Dan Neri Lim organized a motorcade along the streets and, while AJ Banal and Edito Villamor stood at the back of the pickup vehicle and waved to spectators, Boom-Boom hid himself. He stayed inside, behind the cover of tinted glass windows.
“But then the crowd started asking, ‘Asa si Boom-Boom?’” said Aldeguer. “They were looking for him. And so Boom-Boom was asked to lower down the window so he can see and hear his fans. Finally, he went out and joined the motorcade.”
That’s not all. “Boom-Boom wanted to quit,” added Aldeguer. “But we talked to him and said, ‘As team captain, do it for your group. You can’t abandon them.’”
And so days passed before Bautista started training. First, as expected, the motivation wasn’t strong. But as he progressed, he trained harder. And harder.
Today, 76 days since August 11, good news is announced: BOOM IS BACK! On December 2 at the Araneta Coliseum, he’s stepping on the ring in a fight aptly-named, “PAYBACK.”
(Photos by Ed de la Vega of www.philboxing.com)
Last Monday noon, I attended the press conference at the City Sports Club. It was star-studded: Boom-Boom, AJ Banal and Michael Domingo sat in the front along with their manager Michael Aldeguer, trainer Edito Villamor, Mayor Dan Lim, promoter Dennis Canete, and a familiar basketball face: former PBA commissioner Noli Eala.
Those weren’t all the big names. At a table across sat Tony Aldeguer, Eric Tagle and Tonyboy Cojuangco. Tagle is a big-name Manila businessman while Cojuangco, apart from being famous as Gretchen Barretto’s partner, is the billionaire owner of the TV station ABC-5. (Eala, Tagle, Cojuangco and Mayor Lim have teamed up to form “Third Force,” an outfit geared towards sports promotions, and “PAYBACK” is their first project.)
Also among the crowd were Christine Aldeguer (Michael’s wife) and Atty. Aven Piramide, who hails from Boom-Boom’s hometown (Candijay, Bohol) and asked the day’s best question: Did the Ponce de Leon KO cause a psychological scar so deep inside Boom-Boom that he’ll never recover?
“This is going to be a tough fight for Boom-Boom,” Tony Aldeguer answered. “His opponent, Antonio ‘Barrio’ Meza, is a Mexican… like de Leon. He’s southpaw… like de Leon. His record is 23-2, 16 KOs. And so if people think that we’re making it easy for Boom-Boom by giving him a weak opponent, they’re wrong. We’re never going to ‘baby’ Boom-Boom.
“And with Boom-Boom’s loss to de Leon, remember that Manny Pacquiao lost to (Rustico) Torrecampo in a TKO… and Torrecampo was an unknown. At least Boom-Boom lost to a world champ like Ponce de Leon. But look how Manny recovered from that knockout…” said Aldeguer.
“The lesson? It’s all about mental toughness. That’s what made Pacquiao who he is. Mental toughness. That’s what I hope Boom-Boom has. And that’s what I think he has.”