Predictions? Comments? Here are 21…

Haide Acuña: “Manny Pacquiao is a hero because he shows both kids and grown-ups that despite poverty, anyone can succeed in life through hard-work, persistence, humility and faith.”

Efren Belarmino: “Manny by KO in 7. Margarito will get tired.”

Chester Cokaliong: “Will this be MP’s last fight? No, because of the big money he’s getting in every fight. And he would want to fight Mayweather, knocking the lights out of the big mouth to cement his legacy.”

Iko Gomos: “Pacman by KO. But I hope that it will be in the later rounds para dili bitin. He’s too fast and he throws bombs from everywhere and in any stance.”

Atan Guardo: “I’m in Dallas now. From LAX to Dallas airport this morning, be it white, black, Latino, everybody tells me they’re rooting for Manny. You can feel his energy. It’s Manny by decision.”

Edward Hayco: “Manny’s strongest weapon is his Humility.”

Margaux Herrera: “His simplicity and boy-next-door charisma despite being a world-renowned athlete. His religious beliefs and convictions are admirable and reflective of Filipinos.”

Jack Jakosalem: “Unbelievable speed and accuracy. Punching power of a middleweight. Can take the strongest punches from a full welterweight opponent. The endurance to go 12 rounds with the same superb performance as the first round. And the best smile in boxing!”

Noy Jopson: “Size or speed? Size of Margarito will be a big factor as Manny will have bigger surface area to target. All that mass will be hard to cover-up and ultimately Manny’s speed will overwhelm the Mexican. He will get hit from so many angles en route to our Pambansang Kamao’s record-setting 8th weight-class title!”

Dave Karamihan: “If this were sex, size is important…”

Basti Lacson: “The only worshipping the world will be doing today is for Pacquiao, the World Overlord of Pain. He will end Margarito’s stint as punching bag on the 7th by sending him to the floor.”

Melanie Lim: “Manny is a hero because he has given hope to many and because he has proven that if you work at your craft, you can attain success.”

Stephanie Medalle: “His free spirited English reflects the pure confidence that no matter what, he will get the job done!”

Jay-Jay Neri: “MP’s last? I don’t think so because Pacquiao needs to beat Mayweather before he retires—making him the greatest of all time in my book.”

Anton Perdices: “Pacman on the 7th because of his power and speed.”

Harry Radaza: “MP by TKO, 9th or earlier. I don’t buy the smokescreen that he’s not in top form and is distracted. It’s all to sell tickets. He’s too smart and too good not to prepare. There’s only one reason Pacman wins – heart! I am organizing a live telecast at the Lapu-Lapu Sports Complex at only P100 with a unique twist: live round girls to parade around the venue between rounds!”

Mayor Mike Rama. “Pacquiao has an eagle’s eye in terms of focus. He has the heart and valor. He will have Margarito kneeling down by the 5th round.”

Jerry Roa: “He’s a hero because of the way he conducts his business. He fights with a singular purpose… to make people get their money’s worth. This marginally-schooled man’s business ethics can put many a businessman’s practices to shame.”

Cleo Santos: “Manny continues to bring honor and pride to the Phils. which gained us better respect from other nations. Also, he is a living example amongst the youth that dreams can truly happen as long as you put your heart into it.”

Joe Soberano: “He is the only world champion in 8 diff. weight classes (including the super welterweight class which I, along with many, predict his easy win over Margarito). He has even transcended boxing with his numerous achievements, fame, fortune. And he has been an inspiring, revolutionary force to millions of Filipinos who hope to emulate Manny’s success in overcoming the odds.”

Wilton Uykingtian: “Manny is a good, generous, humble and God-fearing person. That’s why he was gifted with boxing power (and lots of girls, hehe). He’s the greatest Filipino boxer.”

CVIRAA in Dumaguete

DUMAGUETE—Since Sunday, I’ve been here in the “City of Gentle People.” True enough, from the hotel staff in Bethel to the waiters in Mamia’s and Sans Rival to the ordinary folks, people here in the Negros Oriental capital city are gentler and kinder.

I’m here for the Central Visayas Regional Athletic Association (CVIRAA) sports meet. My daughter Jana, a Grade 6 student of Bright Academy, qualified to represent Cebu City in this weeklong event involving 5,000 athletes. Jana played tennis and won her three matches (8-0, 8-0, 8-6) and, win or lose in today’s Championship Game, will represent Region VII for the Palarong Pambansa in Dapitan City this April.

Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young was here for the Opening. At breakfast last Monday, we talked about the rehabilitation of our Cebu City Sports Center track oval—which will be repaired immediately after the Sinulog. Joy and I toured the Dumaguete rubberized track—built four years ago. It looks good. Surrounded by bleachers all around, it looks more massive—with better air quality and an open-air feel—than our CCSC. But, what troubled our vice mayor were the small patches of leaking water that sprinkled around the oval. We met their sports head at the track oval and VM Joy gave specific advice on their drainage system—the cause of the problem.

Freddie R. Nostradamus: Manny by KO, 8 or 9

Only three mornings remain before the world’s most anticipated boxing event. Isn’t this exciting? The wait? The hype? The agony of hearing about Manny Pacquiao’s distractions in Baguio and Manila and, two weeks prior to fight day, all these “problems” fading away as Freddie Roach predicts a knockout victory? And yes, isn’t Mr. Roach always correct? Remember his prediction of a Round 2 KO against Hatton—he got that one right. That’s because Freddie Roach is a psychic. He also tells the truth. He doesn’t do this talking to intimidate enemies—this isn’t “trash talking.” It’s The Master having supreme confidence in The Student. What’s the latest prognosis of Freddie, the modern-day Nostradamus?

“Well you know, he’s got a reach advantage, and he’s tall, and he’s going to be a lot bigger, of course, but size doesn’t win fights—skill does. We out-skill him in every aspect—speed, timing, and I have no fears whatsoever,” said Roach in an exclusive interview with Jenna J of On The Ropes Boxing Radio Show in the article written by Geoffrey Ciani.

“I think it’s going to be an easy fight if Manny fights the right fight. The only problem I have is that some people say that Manny can’t bang with the big guys and that he’s not strong enough and Manny wants to prove that he is big enough. So somewhere in the fight he will go on the ropes and he will bang with him. We’re prepared for that, but the thing is I would rather see him outbox him. Knowing Manny Pacquiao, he’s going to try to bang with him and he’ll be successful because again, we’re ready for it. The thing is, I think the best way to fight Margarito is to outbox him, but again, we’ll do whatever it takes.”

Roach was asked about the weight differential between the Filipino and the Mexican. “You know what, Pacquiao weighed 147 pounds yesterday after a workout,” said Roach in this Nov. 9 interview. “He’s going to go into the ring at 149 pounds, his prime fighting weight. If he Pacquiao comes in a little heavier, like at 152-153, he’s a little slow and a little more sluggish. I know my fighter’s prime fighting weight, and again, we’ll be about 149 pounds and Margarito will be by fight time 160 to 165. Again, I’m not worried about the size of this guy. Speed and skills are going to win this fight, and Pacquiao outweighs him in those departments easily.”

As to Roach’s final words during the interview, he said, “Well Margarito is a little bit of a slow starter. We’re going to start quickly on him and we’re going to overwhelm him with combinations and speed. I think we’ll break Margarito down and I think we’ll knock him out in about eight or nine rounds and I think he just won’t handle Manny’s speed. The speed is going to be way too much for him.”

Read the entire piece here.

PacMan Training






Japan, beware of Lapu-Lapu’s sword!

Our first Filipino hero was not Emilio Aguinaldo or Jose Rizal or Manny Pacquiao. He was a Cebuano. On the morning of April 27, 1521, right here along the shores of Mactan, a tribal chieftain, armed only with primitive swords and crooked spears, bloodied and massacred Ferdinand Magellan. Lapu-Lapu won. Cebu won. The Filipinos stood victorious. This was 489 years ago.

Can we repeat the same next year? From March 4 to 6? When another group of invaders will land in Lapu-Lapu City, ready to fight with their wristbands, forehand grips and swords? Yes. This event promises to be one the biggest spectacles in Cebu in 2011. For this clash is not between two PBA teams or Palaro players or our Region VII against NCR.

It’s nation versus country. It’s us, Filipinos, against them. It’s the Davis Cup.

What is DC and who is Mr. Davis? This event using modern day swords—tennis racquets—is one of the world’s most prestigious of tournaments. Starting in 1900 when Great Britain played the U.S., the founder was Dwight Davis, an American tennis champion. But that’s not the believe-it-or-not fact about Davis. Here it is: From 1929 to 1932, he served as Governor General of the Philippines. He led our nation for three years under the U.S. presidency of Calvin Coolidge. And so Davis—and his Cup—have a special meaning for us, Filipinos.

Today, over 134 nations join. Two of these nations will clash at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa four months from today. Japan. Philippines. This is a first. The first time that the Davis Cup—since we joined in 1926—will be held outside Manila. The privileged name who will play hosts? Cebu. The city? Named after our first hero, Lapu-Lapu.

This is fantastic. A Friday-to-Sunday, March 4 to 6, 2011 event that will pit our best against Japan’s top netters. We have Cecil Mamiit. He’s in town today. I picked him up at the airport yesterday and, together with Randy Villanueva, the Philippine Tennis Association Vice-President and Davis Cup Administrator, we drove to Plantation Bay. We climbed Marco Polo Hotel and gazed at the view. Cecil practiced with Jacob Lagman.

I first watched Cecil at the 1999 U.S. Open. Next, I saw him win the gold medal for our nation in the 2005 South East Asian Games in Manila. The theme song then was “Pinoy Ako.” He’s tenacious, fast and, like Michael Chang, never gives up. Once ranked world # 72, Cecil will be joined by another Fil-Am, Treat Huey, plus Johnny Arcilla.

Can we beat Japan? No, we have not defeated them in 15 years—the last time was when Joseph Lizardo and Robert Angelo beat the Shuzo Matsuoko-led team, 3-2. We’ve lost to Japan the last three times, including last March in a 5-0 drubbing in Osaka.

But, yes, we can beat Japan. In our recent losses, several matches have gone five sets. That’s close. And, let’s remember, when Japan last defeated us, the surface was a fast indoor court—not Cecil’s favorite.

In Lapu-Lapu City this March, it will be a slow clay-court without roofing so we can cook the Japanese alive on the tennis rectangle. History? We’ve played 26 times, with Japan winning 17. But, on the two occasions when the surface was clay—guess who won? Pinoys. Plus, there’s the crowd factor. In Davis Cup, the host nation has the advantage of a screaming, rowdy and ear-splitting audience. Mo syagit ta ug kusog!

Harry Radaza is to be thanked for this event. The new Councilor of Lapu-Lapu City is the chairman of his city’s sports and tourism committees. He’s also the chairman of the organizing group of this Davis Cup tie. His support—and, of course, that of Mayor Paz Radaza—are essential.

There’s Efren Belarmino of Plantation Bay. As Nimrod Quiñones put it in The Freeman yesterday, Efren is one of his “favorite generals” in Mactan. That’s because Efren is the general manager of Plantation Bay. The five-star luxury resort will build a brand-new clay-court and will host the Philippine players and officials.

So, fellow Cebuanos, this March… it’s Game, Set, and Match.

Marko Sarmiento, handicap 3, averages 290

Tiger Woods is Marko Sarmiento. Both have one trait in common. No, Marko is obedient while Tiger is, well, naughty—so it’s not that. They’re similar in another way: The way they obliterate that golf ball off the tee mound; each averaging 290 yards!

I asked Marko how he does it. “I guess being a skinny Asian kid in a U.S. university had something to do with it,” he said. “I didn’t want to be the shortest hitter on our team!”

Marko Sarmiento was my schoolmate at CIS. We’re both April 9 born. But that’s where the similarities end because, on the golf course, Marko—who’s played the past 20 years since he was 12—is possibly Cebu’s longest hitter.

“I come from a family of golfers from both the Garcias and Sarmientos,” he said. “Actually, we’re a big sporting family. Our conversations are always about sports! Golf is a great social sport. You’re on the course for 4 hours and we get to play with all sorts of people with different skill levels. You can’t do this with any other sport. The personalities you meet add to the game. Why is this game special? It’s the most difficult sport to master. The player with the least mistakes wins! There’s always something to work on.”

Marko’s passion for golf took him to study the game in college. “I went to Methodist Univ. in North Carolina,” he said. “I majored in Business Administration – Professional Golf Management. It’s a unique program and 10 years ago only a handful of schools offered this. Now, around 20 U.S. universities have it, including Arizona State, North Carolina State and UNLV. This course offers both a bachelor’s degree in business with the option of pursuing a profession in the golf industry. I’m lucky that my parents gave me the chance to study what I wanted to do at that time. My dad was the most excited!”

Speaking of his dad, Efren—who, to me, owns the most genuine and biggest of smiles in town—the father-and-son duo play twice weekly at the Cebu Country Club. “I also play with my brother Arlo, Jovi Neri, Kiyofumi Takahashi and my uncle Montito,” said Marko.

“Montito,” of course, is Mr. Garcia, the 8-time CCC club champion—a title Marko relishes. “That’s the title I want most. I came in 2nd before so winning it is a must.”

As to the top pro that he applauds? Marko answered: “Chad Collins, who now plays on the US PGA Tour. He was my teammate in college.” Among Filipinos, Marko respects Frankie Miñoza. “I’ve been lucky to know him since he’s good friends with my uncle Montito. He paved the way for the locals and remains one of the best Filipino pros despite turning 50 last year. He’s going to give the US Senior PGA Tour a shot.” The trait Marko admires most about Frankie? “Despite his success, he remains humble.”

While golf is Marko’s passion, his profession is as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of JEG Development Corp., the holdings company of their real estate family business. He’s also a director of their furniture export firm, Detalia Aurora, Inc.

Other sports? Marko plays softball, water sports, basketball. As to his favorite NBA team, be surprised: “I’m a big follower of the San Antonio Spurs. I know not many follow them but I’ve been a fan since the days of David Robinson, Willie Anderson, Terry Cummings, Chuck Person and Antoine Carr. A lot of friends make fun of me because they’re boring… except for Ginobili!”

Here’s another sport he follows: “Three friends and I were at UFC 100 in Vegas in July 2009,” said Marko. “The co-main event was between Brock Lesner v. Frank Mir and George St. Pierre v. Thiago Alves. I’ve been a huge MMA fan for about four years because my good friend, Jon Syjuco, got me into it. The addiction has grown since. We bumped into Dane White (UFC Pres.) in Vegas and he said that UFC is coming to the Phils. soon!”

Back to golf, I asked Marko about driving 300-plus yards. His tip: “Turning the hips is the key to distance while the arms will follow. Too many of us try to swing too hard using brute force, which normally results in paying for all your bets!”

Categorized as Golf

Baseball? Here’s one catch I’ll never forget

The past two mornings, watching Games 3 and 4 of the World Series finale between the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers, the sight of curve balls, homeruns and base hits elicited unforgettable memories.

Twice, I watched Major League Baseball. These happened in 1993. Yes, that’s a long 17 years ago. Our entire family had the opportunity to travel in America. We visited Disneyland, gazed at the HOLLYWOOD sign perched on the hilltop, drove to San Diego to survey the Sea World whales, stared in awe of the giant Universal Studios.

Sports? Manny Pacquiao was only 15 then. He wasn’t in Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym yet—so that wasn’t part of our itinerary. In the era of Michael Jordan, no we didn’t watch No. 23—and I can’t recall why not. The sport I forced my family members to attend? Baseball.

I love baseball. In college, it was one of the favorite events. Jesse Bernad—who operates Fastball Batting Cages and who’s a skipper of the sport today—was U.P. Cebu’s top pitcher. And batter. He was the MVP of our college’s MLB-version. My other batch-mates included Jeffrey Pabriaga, Dustin Morada and Neil Ceniza. Softball was fun.

Back to our U.S. trip: We were in Los Angeles and, with my dad Bunny, I watched my first-ever Major League Baseball game. It was the L.A. Dodgers against a rookie team, the Colorado Rockies. That 1993 game was their first-ever meeting. Thanks to Google (while researching for this piece yesterday), I tracked down the date and it’s “May 21, 1993.” The Dodgers won that game, 8-0, and my dad and I watched Mike Piazza hit a homerun.

What an experience. The gigantic Dodger Stadium—today’s third-oldest MLB ballpark—happens to be, according to Wikipedia, the largest baseball park in the world (based on capacity) with 56,000 seats. That’s Baseball Story No. 1.

The second is more dramatic: As our family moved northward to San Francisco, we resided in the home of one of my mom Allen’s relatives. Lo and behold, our relatives’ children—my age—had free tickets to a baseball game. No, it wasn’t the San Francisco Giants—now leading 3-1 against the Rangers and poised to win their sixth World Series title—but it’s neighbor across the island, the Oakland Athletics.

Together with my cousins, my dad, and my brother Randy, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and hopped to the Oakland Coliseum where the Oakland A’s were to meet the defending champions, the Toronto Blue Jays.

The atmosphere was chaotic and loud. With over 30,000 boisterous fans—many shirtless, many with Budweiser beers on-hand, many chewing on hotdogs—it was a thrill. David Cone pitched for the Blue Jays. One of his teammates was Joe Carter—made famous with this “Golden Moment” homerun just months earlier to win the World Series for the Jays.

Mark McGwire, nicknamed “Big Mac,” (and who homered 70 times in 1998), was the most revered A’s player then. (Prior to his admission of performance-enhancing drugs.) Sadly, he was absent that day. But Rickey Henderson—who holds the all-time “stolen bases” record—played for Oakland.

My group sat at the back of the home plate. We had a close look at the batters. Now, here’s my believe-it-or-not moment: It happened in the fourth inning. I don’t recall who was batting but, when the ball struck his wooden bat, it floated on-air and hovered back—towards our direction. One… two… three seconds later… the baseball swooped downwards—right towards us.

Bang! It hit the seat fronting us! I jumped down—as did a few others—everybody scrambling for the ball. We bumped shoulders. Hands jostled. Finally, after the scuffle, my hands gripped the white leather. I clasped it hard. Yes! With hundreds of eyes staring at our direction, I lifted the prized catch onto the California clouds.

It was a moment I’ll forever cherish. A sport I’ll always follow. As George Will once said, “Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.”