Boom Boom

Cebuano boxing aficionados often complain about the slew of nobodies the ALA boxers face each time they fight at the Waterfront Lahug. A First Round knockout. An easy Round 2 TKO. A lopsided, unanimous decision. Not this weekend. Boom Boom Bautista, the most famous boxer representing Cebu and the ALA Boxing Gym, has lost only twice in 32 performances. That’s an impressive 93.75 winning percentage.

Once, he got KOed by Daniel Ponce de Leon. The other fighter to have beaten Rey? Heriberto Ruiz, the shirtless man he’ll be facing on the center-stage three nights from today. Not young at 33 years old, the Mexicano is nine years older than the Boholano.

Boom Boom (fourth from right) with businessman Wally Liu (third from right) and the ALA boxers.. Milan Melindo, Rocky Fuentes, Donnie Nietes, AJ Banal, Mark Melligen and Jason Pagara

Is this good or bad for Boom Boom? Good because Ruiz has been inflicted with thousands more of uppercuts, bloodied noses, wallops, damaged ribs. Bad because of his longevity and experience — and because, mentally, when they eyeball-to-eyeball soon, Ruiz knows he’s won before.

Like in almost all events of the ALA Boxing Promotions — led by the father-and-son duo of Antonio Lopez Aldeguer and his second son, Michael — this will be a crowded, wall-to-wall, SRO-only fight… all eyes on a TKO. This, I predict, will be this island’s Fight of 2011.

Dirk Fever ices Miami’s heat

Dirk Nowitzki’s body temperature read 102 degrees Fahrenheit. In our usual Celsius reading, that’s 38.9. That’s a high fever. Well, he was high all right; scoring 21 points yesterday, including a game-winning lay-up with 14.4 seconds remaining.

Dallas wins Game 4, 86-83. From a best-of-seven NBA Finals series, it’s now two-out-of-three. The score is 2-2. The whiteboard is a clean slate. It’s back to Square, Game One. All the previous skirmishes — the 82-game regular season, the Eastern and Western Conference Finals, the Heat’s dramatic loss in Game 2 — all these no longer matter. What matters is, Philippine time, the mornings of Friday, Monday, and, possibly (and hopefully), Wednesday.

“He did everything that he could possibly do,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, of his 7-foot German center, Nowitzki. “The ball was moving to other people; he was creating when he could create. I love the way he played. Fighting through that was not easy.”

It was another come-from-behind Dallas win. Miami led by nine points early in the fourth quarter. And didn’t we previously think that the Heat, in the final 12 minutes, was unstoppable, right? Wrong. For the man who wronged the most yesterday — LeBron James – was the best player of the Finals. Was. Because LeBron scored only eight points — breaking a streak of 433 regular- and post-season games when he scored double-digits. It was his first lowly number in 90 playoff games. Worse, he took only one shot in the last quarter. (In his career, when LeBron scores 15 or fewer points, his team is 0-7.)

Pagkatoytoy, as Bobby Nalzaro would say it.

“The fact that it happened in a loss is the anger part about it,” LBJ said. “That’s all that matters to me. If I’d have had eight points and we won the game … I don’t really care about that. The fact that I could have done more offensively to help our team, that’s the anger part about it for myself. But I’ll come back in Game 5 and do things that need to be done to help our team win.”

Game 5, of course, will be the most crucial of the entire NBA season. If Miami wins, it’s Game Over. With the final two encounters scheduled in South Beach, Florida, they’ll have two chances to win for James and Bosh their first-ever NBA rings. But, if Dallas wins, this concert turns electrifying. A Game 7 can happen, like last year when the Lakers bested the Celtics in the NBA’s very last game.

I’m for Miami. But, for the sake of prolonged excitement, I’d like Dallas to claim victory tomorrow, with the extended hope that LeBron nails the championship-winning shot in Game 7 — much like Boom Boom’s knockout punch this Saturday. Go… Boom and ‘Bron.

10 points on Rafa’s 10th major

Roger Federer should have won that first set. He led 5-2. He owned a set point. But, after missing a drop-shot by millimeters, he lost the next five games. Had Roger won that set, we never know…

But now we know. We know that, after the first 63 minutes were his, Rafael Nadal was invincible. He started jumping, lunging, fist-pumping. Vamos! reverberated throughout Stade Roland Garros.

Head-to-head, Rafa has won 17 of the 25 occasions that he and Roger have played. At the French Open, the record is 5-0 (including four in the Finals). On clay, it’s 11-2; hard-court, 4-all; on grass, Roger leads 2-1. And the most telling of all statistics: in Grand Slam finals, Rafa owns a 6-2 winning edge.

(AP/Lionel Cironneau)

It’s obvious that, between the two, Nadal is better. So why, you ask, is Federer universally proclaimed as The Best Ever? All this chatter, of course, is pointless. RF fans will forever defend their man; so will RN devotees. Rafa himself addressed this issue, saying, “When you talk about these statistics, when you try and make these comparisons, really it’s not very interesting to me. I’m very happy with what I have, with who I am. I’m not the best player in the history of tennis. I think I’m among the best. That’s true. That’s enough for me.” Roger offers his own analysis: “He plays better against the better ones, and that’s what he showed today. He’s a great champion, on clay especially.”

What did we witness last Sunday? I cite 10 thoughts after observing the 10th Slam victory…

One, the Roger v. Rafa Rivalry is one of sport’s most compelling. No other one-two contest (Borg-McEnroe, Ali-Frazier, Palmer-Nicklaus) can compare. The contrast in personalities. The styles and spins of play. The emotions: cool vs. combative. These are incomparable. And a message to all tennis fans that, should one have the resources, they ought to watch them play “live” before they retire.

Two, on court, if it’s Rafa’s forehand against Roger’s backhand, the outcome is as obvious as Pacquiao-Marquez III. The lefty wins. Roger has to find a way to avoid such ping-pong, cross-court exchanges.

Three, the tenacity of the Spaniard is unfathomable. His doggedness, resolve, and fortitude — more than his whipping forehand topspin or 100-meter-dash speed — gifts him victory. Tennis is mental. He who grits his teeth harder and wants it more pockets the $1.7 million prize money.

Four, defense wins the game. Watch the NBA. Listen to Coach Yayoy Alcoseba and to LeBron James & Co. “Defense is the key to success,” they’ll voice out in unison. Same with tennis. Nadal’s retrieval prowess — his ability to return a shot that, to anybody else on the ATP Tour, would have been a point lost — makes him greater than Bjorn Borg on clay.

Five, Roger is only 29. Which means he’s not 30 – a “psychological barrier” age when tennis pros (who’ve played since six years old) are on decline.

Six, the question is: Can Rafa, now with 10 majors, surpass Roger’s 16? At 25 years old, he’s five years younger. That’s about 20 Grand Slam title opportunities. He can if…

Seven… his body doesn’t complain. No body is subjected to more excruciating torture than Rafa’s 188-lb. frame. He slides, stretches, smashes, swings, sprints… suffers. Injury can derail his pursuit more than Federer Express.

Eight, Rafa can win despite “playing ugly.” Rafa almost lost. In the first round against John Isner, he was down two sets to one. Had he been defeated, that would have ranked as the greatest upset of all time. But he kept afloat. He survived. “The real Rafa is both the Rafa who wins and the Rafa who plays well, and the Rafa who suffers and doesn’t play that well,” said Nadal. “You have to face this situation.”

Nine, had Rafa faced Novak in the finals, he’d have lost. I think so. Roger’s backhand is his weakness. Not Novak. His two-handed shot causes grief to Rafa. That’s what caused defeat to the Mallorcan in the last four Final meetings they had.

Ten, I can’t wait for Wimbledon…..

Love Triangle: Roger spurns Novak for Rafa

A funny thing happened in this 2011 French Open. Everybody forgot about Roger Federer. All the focus was on Mr. Djokovic. All the talk was on Rafa’s quest for a sixth trophy. Who’s Roger? Is he still alive? In this planet? Playing tennis? Well, he happens to be the only living (and, yes, non-living) male person to have won 16 Grand Slam singles titles. He won on the Parisian red clay in 2009. He won an Olympic doubles gold medal in 2010. He is, almost unanimously, the best hairy, male player who’s gripped a tennis racket.

And, during the past two weeks in Paris, like a stealth bomber that’s hidden from the radar view, he was silent, unseen, moving, targeting, and now, all of a sudden, he’s out in the open, in the Finals, and within sight of the prize.

Less pressure. Compared to Rafa and Novak, the Swiss had it easier. He’s relegated to a world ranking of # 3. That’s a lowly position that RF had not stooped down to since, when, 2002? Yet, all this is working for the good. For Roger’s good. Because elite, world’s-best athletes need an extra boost of motivation to allow them to climb beyond Mount Everest’s peak – and this is it for Roger.

Neglected, ignored and, yes, disregarded as a 30-year-old (in August 8) has-been former-superstar whose star has faded, this abandonment Roger is using to spark himself.

COME ON!!!!!!! I’ve never, in over eight years of observation, seen him pump his fist and shout “Come On!” as many times as now. He’s feeding off this omission by the media — myself included — and using it to power his smash. You think I’m gone? I’ll prove you people wrong! he’s mentally saying.

Did you see his annihilation of Novak? He served 18 aces. He fired his forehand down-the-line. He snapped his backhand cross-court. He gracefully performed drop shots. He attacked. He was unafraid to exchange shot versus shot against the Serb. “I really wanted to make it as physical as possible,” which I was able to make happen,” said Roger.

Because of RF’s win, the happiest man in Paris today is… Rafa… the arch-rival but best friend of Roger (you should see their YouTube video, giggling and joking for endless minutes while filming an advertisement).

Had Djokovic entered the finals, he’d have been world No.1 when the new ATP rankings are released tomorrow, Monday. Roger prevented that. And he did so during Rafa’s 25th birthday last Friday. Best friends help each other. Roger did his part. Will Rafa return the favor, losing to his similar 6-foot-1, Nike-fully-clothed amigo in tonight’s Grand Finale (at 9 P.M., PHL time)?

Ha-ha. It’s like LeBron James asking Nowitzki, “Hey, Dirk, can you pleeeease give me a chance and give me my first NBA ring?” (Dirk’s reply: ‘Bron, me, too. I’ve never won a title!)

And so we’re back to one of the greatest rivalries in history. “I have another opportunity to beat Rafa here and get the Roland Garros title,” said Roger. “I’ve got to play some extraordinarily special tennis. I’m aware of that. But I obviously took a huge step today, and hope I can get everything together for the final.”

My pick? I’ve always attempted to stand on neutral ground when these two play. Roger is an exquisite, Swiss-cool, one-handed-backhand-hitting, effortless, injury-less gentleman. Rafa is animalistic, bull-like, tenacious-beyond-compare, humble yet ferocious. The two — apart from having collected 21 of the last 24 Grand Slam singles titles since 2005 — also share a loftier accolade: they are two of the most courteous, good-mannered role models in entertainment.

So I pick… “R.” Once, in a Casino Español luncheon with Frank Malilong on one side as Rafa’s Cebu-based attorney and Moya Jackson, Chinggay Utzurrum and Michelle So on the opposite end as I’m-In-Love-With-Roger lifetime members, it was a cross-fire worse than Mayweather, Sr. and Freddie Roach.

Seriously, as inspired as Roger is by his twin daughters, I’d pick RN. A winner in 44 out of 45 matches in Roland Garros, he’ll add a sixth crown past 12 midnight tonight. Vamos.

I went to North Korea — almost

SEOUL, KOREA–This city is huge. Next only to Tokyo, it owns the title of “the world’s second largest metropolitan area” with 24.5 million people. About half of the entire population of South Korea reside in the Seoul National Capital Area — an expanded version of the City of Seoul, much like Metro Cebu or Metro Manila.

Seoul is expansive and vast. In the three nights that we stayed here, we traveled to several places. In almost each stop, traveling time takes 30 to 45 minutes — and the roads are eight-lanes-wide. Traffic exists, but not much. Vehicles move. Everybody here moves. Fast.

Apart from meeting prospective business partners (the Philippines has about 120,000 Koreans), we visited, last Tuesday, the most popular tourist site of the peninsula: North Korea. No, we did not step inside the most confined and repressive nation on earth — that’s disallowed and would mean lifetime imprisonment (and possibly torture; remember Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in Die Another Day?). But we — Dondi Joseph, Joe Soberano, my dad Bunny and myself — did get the chance to be as close as possible to this nation that’s oddly (or shall I say, wrongly-named) “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

We went to the DMZ. That’s the De-Militarized Zone, about 40 minutes from hotel in Downtown Seoul. At the DMZ, we watched a video of the war between the two Korean sides in 1950 that claimed about four million lives. We traversed the 3rd Tunnel, walking down over 300 meters below sea level. The location was called the Joint Security Area. As is expected, the “38th Parallel” is the most militarized border in the world.

The day prior to DMZ, we had a whole day of business gatherings with the PHL Ambassador to South Korea, Luis Cruz. Dr. Bernard Villegas spoke. So did the officials of KEPCO, one of the world’s biggest energy firms — and one who has three power plants in our soil, including two in Cebu (Naga).

Food? Since I love spicy dishes, I’m at home here. Kimchi, “shabu-shabu,” and many more that perspire you while you sit and dine… these abound here. After the DMZ experience, our four-person Cebu group got hungry. It was 2 P.M. Scouring through the inner roads, we found a small, home-like restaurant. It was our best meal here; seafood soup, mackerel fish (much like our “buwad”), beef Bulgogi with noodles — it was perfect.

John, Bunny, Dondi and Joe

Rotary? Since Joe Soberano (the president of the Rotary Club of Cebu) and I (the president of the Rotary Club of Cebu West) were together, we had Rotary work to perform. The Rotary Club of Goyang, an organization of over 100 members, has an existing sister-club relationship with RC Cebu. Joe, Boni Belen (an RC Cebu past president), my dad and I joined their meeting two nights ago. It was formal. Everybody wore a suit. From 7 to 8 P.M. inside RC Goyang’s own office space, Joe sat at the presidential table and gave a speech. The Philippine anthem was played. We proudly placed our right hands on our hearts. After the serious Rotary ceremonies, it was off to dinner at a Korean establishment.

We had three types of alcohol (soju, their famous wine; another type that I couldn’t decipher; and Cass beer). We had crabs, duck, some form of octopus, plenty of kimchi, and an overdose of spicy dishes. From the seriousness of no-smiles of the Rotary meeting, the dinner was boisterous. The Koreans, no doubt — as reflected by their work ethic and status as a First World Nation — know both: they work hard and are serious, but they also relax, drink and revel in the opposite, fun-side of life.

Sports? Sadly, I can’t report much. I did see the Olympic Stadium, built when this nation hosted the 1988 Games. We also passed the FIFA World Cup Stadium. Too bad I did not get a chance to step inside both. Baseball is No.1 here. While I previously mentioned that Football was tops, I believe the game of mitts, backstops, bunts and sacrifice flies, is the top game here.

In all, the “Soul of Asia” is terrific. If only their cable TV showed the French Open, it would be near-perfect.

From the War Memorial of Korea

Former Pres. Fidel Ramos’ actual military gear that he wore during the Korean War

Categorized as Travels