If you’re a billiards and Bata Reyes fanatic, tonight is the night. Casino Español de Cebu, which will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2020, has organized an exciting event that’s open to the public.
Efren “Bata” Reyes, also nicknamed “The Magician,” will be playing tonight with the Mandaue City-born top female billiards champion, Rubilen Amit.
Bata Reyes needs no introduction but Ms. Amit is also one of the nation’s best. Our sportswriters group awarded Rubilen in 2013 and 2014 as the “Athlete of the Year.” During that period, she was the world’s top World 10 Ball champion and partnered with her compatriot tonight (Bata Reyes) to win the Mixed Doubles World title.
With Bata Reyes in Casino Español
The venue will be the Salon de España of Casino Español and the exhibition games start at 7 p.m. But prior to that, there will be prelimary games starting at 3:30 p.m. The official statement from the club reads: “Watch Ipar Miranda, Mic Mic Miranda, Abe Sy, Wellington Yu, Kevin Co, Kendrick Sulay, Jose Rodolfo Tiu, II and the winners get to team up with the billiard greats.”
Tickets are priced at P700 (for members) and P800 (for guests), already inclusive of the club’s superb dinner buffet.
That’s Bata Reyes and Rubilen Amit at 7 p.m. later in Casino Español.
The good news is the Phils. is hosting the biennial event in 2019. The bad news is how we’ve performed in Kualu Lumpur. Armed with a reported P300 million budget and having sent 497 athletes and 193 officials to Malaysia, thus far, we’ve only won 15 gold medals and 75 total medals (including 24 silver and 36 bronze).
SEAG has 11 countries joining. Where do we rank? Right in the middle: five countries are better than us and five are worse. The top five are Malaysia (72 gold and 165 total), Vietnam (43 gold and 107 total), Singapore (40 gold and 115 total), Thailand (36 gold and 143 total) and Indonesia (23 gold and 103 total). These are the top five. We sit at No. 6 and below us are Myanmar (27 total medals), Cambodia (8), Brunei (9), Laos (8) and Timor Este with zero medals.
Is this good or bad? It’s definitely not good. We placed in the same middle (sixth) place at the 2015 SEAG. Obviously, there’s no way for Myanmar and Cambodia to surpass our medal tally; so if we can’t beat those top five rivals, this is dismal and miserable news. Two years ago in the Singapore SEAG, we won 29 gold medals and 131 total. With only three days left in Kuala Lumpur, let’s hope our tally increases. And here’s the shocking comparison: back when he hosted the 2005 SEAG, we garnered 113 gold medals and 291 in total to become No. 1. Yes, we had home court advantage but what a disparity between today and 12 years ago.
2019 SEAG. Speaking of hosting, the 30th SEAG edition will be in Manila two years from now. My question is: Which cities will host the games? There are plenty of games to be played. In Kualu Lumpur this week, there are 404 events in 38 sports. We had almost similar numbers back in 2005: we organized 443 events in 40 sports.
Manila, obviously, will host the opening and closing ceremonies. The Rizal Memorial Sports Complex will act as the main venue. Speaking of Rizal Memorial, did you know that it almost got sold? The 10-hectare property that was built in 1934 in a prime Manila property was offered to the market. Estimates for its selling price ranged from P10 to P15 billion. But in the end, PSC chief Butch Ramirez opted to keep Rizal Memorial as a sports hub. Very timely because of SEAG 2019. Many of the events are expected to be played in Rizal: athletics, tennis, gymnastics and baseball.
Cebu played hosts in 2005. We welcomed the athletes from mountain-biking (Danao), dancesport (Waterfront), judo and karate (Mandaue), Pencak silat (Cebu Coliseum) and sepak takraw (USC).
In 2019, we should lobby to host these same sports and more. With MTB, I don’t see any other Philippine city that can rival the one that the Duranos and Boying Rodriguez prepared. That’s why the XTERRA (off-road triathlon) is in Danao. With dancesport, the king and queen are Edward and Eleanor Hayco.
With two years to go before SEAG, I hope our leaders will lobby for Cebu to host more events. In 2005, triathlon was held in Subic. Can we offer to host triathlon here, given the success of the Ironman 70.3? Boxing was in Bacolod. Can we transfer this to the IEC or Waterfront? How about the marathon? Imagine this: Joy Tabal being cheered on by thousands along Cebu’s streets as she defends her SEAG marathon gold. Cebu ought to host more in 2019.
The name “Alan Peter Cayetano” is not often associated with sports. It’s his older sister of four years, Senator Pia Cayetano, who is always linked with sports.
Sen. Pia bikes and runs marathons with Jane-Jane Ong; she braves the open sea to join triathlons; the woman whose full name is Pilar Juliana is totally passionate with sports.
But today, sports-wise, the Cayetano that we ought to pay tribute to is Alan Peter. A senator from 2007 to 2017, he was recently asked by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to become the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Since May, he exchanged his first name of “Senator” to “Secretary.”
DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano is to be thanked because of the action that he took last week. Because while the 2017 Southeast Asian Games are now on-going in Malaysia, the hosting of the 2019 SEAG was completely in limbo just over eight days ago.
Here’s the backstory: In July 2015, the POC announced to our Asean neighbors and to us Pinoys that we would be hosting the 2019 SEAG. This was welcome news. The last time we hosted was in 2005. Even better news, we topped the medal tally that year with 291 medals, becoming overall champions.
So, 2019 was a go. Go? No!
Because just last month, our national leaders announced that it was backing out of the 2019 SEAG hosting. The reason: the billions to be spent on sports needed to be channeled for the rebuiling of Marawi. That’s the official statement. But behind the scenes, we knew there were other reasons, including this: the POC and PSC were fighting.
And so, with the SEAG hosting, there was a stalemate. Cojuangco was embarrassed to go to Malaysia to inform his POC friends that the Philippines was reneging on its hosting promise. Ramirez reiterated the national leadership’s stance that we couldn’t do it.
Enter Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano. In a stunning press conference just seven days ago, Cayetano stood at the center of the table and was able to bring together the warring POC and PSC factions. We’re back to hosting in 2019 and Cayetano will be the SEAG Organizing Committee chairperson with Ramirez and Cojuangco as his co-chairmen.
“We are so happy that despite the glitches, and only two days before this meeting,” said the SEA Games Federation council president HRM Yam Tunku Sri Imran, “our friends in the Philippine Olympic Committee met with officials from their government to discuss and confirm to us that there are hosting the 2019 SEA Games.”
This is fantastic news. Backing out of a major commitment does not send a good signal to the international community. I’m glad this was resolved. SEAG is good for tourism. It’s nation-building.
Kudos to Sec. Cayetano. Only three months new to his DFA job, he’s been extremely busy. Just days before that presscon, he was hosting the Asean foreign ministers meeting. His responsibility is “foreign affairs” not “sports.” For him to rescue the SEAG hosting from near-certain death is highly laudable.
My additional take on this? We also have to thank his sister. My hunch is that given how sports-loving Sen. Pia is, she was approached by top officials and she, in turn, spoke to her brother to bring everyone together.
Jeruel “Jerry” Roa worked for San Miguel Corporation from 1983 to 2003. He led the Corporate Affairs Office. During that 20-year span, he was assigned in the SMC head office in Manila from 1986 to 1992.
A tall 6-footer who played basketball since he was a teenager, Jerry made sure to watch most of the Beermen’s PBA games.
His most memorable moments? They were back in 1989 at the ULTRA in Pasig when he not only witnessed the Grand Slam feat of San Miguel but also when he was part of the celebration, joining the team at Kamayan EDSA in the aftermath of the final conference’s championship game.
That was in 1989. Are the San Miguel Beermen ripe for Grand Slam II?
An excellent writer and avid follower of sports that include football, volleyball, tennis, athletics, boxing and rugby, I asked Jerry for his thoughts on this historic moment. In a two-part series, here are Jerry’s own words:
“The San Miguel Beermen are one conference away from achieving the rare Grand Slam in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). Only five other teams in the 42-year history of the league have achieved such distinction: the 1976 Crispa Redmanizers, the 1983 Crispa Redmanizers, the 1989 San Miguel Beermen, the 1996 Alaska Milkmen, and the 2014 San Mig Coffee Mixers.
“To duplicate their elders’ feat of 28 years ago, the current Beermen must win the Governors’ Cup which begins on Friday, July 15. Momentum seems to be on the side of the Beermen. Earlier this year, they won the Philippine Cup (formerly known as the All-Filipino) over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 4 – 1. Last weekend, they clinched the Commissioner’s Cup, 4 – 2, over the Talk N Text Tropang Texters.
“What more could motivate this talented bunch to focus on the final leg of their hunt for the Grand Slam?
“Perhaps a look at history of their franchise’s first Grand Slam may convince them that the stars are aligned on their path to greatness. The Grand Slam of 1989 was achieved by a team with a core who had played together since their amateur years, led by a multi-awarded veteran slotman, an outstanding Fil-Am reinforcement, willing role players, and promising rookies.
“Its roster during that golden year read like a legends All-Star team. At that time Ramon Fernandez was already a multiple MVP winner. Hector Calma, Avelino ‘Samboy’ Lim, Jr., Yves Dignadice, Franz Pumaren and Elmer Reyes, had played together in the national team and Northern Cement under coach Ron Jacobs. Ricardo Brown, a deadly shooter and ball handler, brought in more firepower. Alvin Teng and Jeffrey Graves provided length and young legs to protect the rim. Ricky Cui and Alfie Almario provided instant offense when called from the bench. Future MVP Ato Agustin and Bobby Jose were the team rookies.
“In the Open and Reinforced conferences (precursors of the current Commissioner’s Cup and Governors’ Cup), San Miguel picked imports who complemented the locals. They were Michael Phelps (the cager, not the swimmer), Keith Smart, and Ennis Whatley. Calling the shots from the bench was Norman Black, a former perennial PBA Best Import. He was assisted by Derrick Pumaren. San Miguel’s closest rivals then were definitely no pushovers.
“Open Conference runner-up Formula Shell, whom San Miguel defeated 4-1 in the finals, paraded the season MVP cum Rookie of the Year Venancio ‘Benjie’ Paras. (Yes, the same Benjie Paras who makes you laugh and cry today in TV sitcoms and teleseryes, and is father to young ballers Kobe and Andre).
“The ‘Tower of Power’ was recipient of assists from Ronnie Magsanoc, his buddy in the U.P. Maroons, and the scoring support of veterans Arnie Tuadles, Jay Ramirez, Ed Cordero, Onchie de la Cruz, Tim Coloso, and young Romy de la Rosa. Sharing the backcourt with Magsanoc was veteran guard Leovino Austria, who is now the head coach of the Beermen. Bobby Parks earned his third Best Import plum with the Zoom Masters, who were coached then by Dante Silverio, formerly of the defunct Toyota franchise.
“If there was a young and powerhouse team that gave the Beermen the fits, it was the Purefoods Hotdogs. The All-Filipino runners-up was composed of young guns Alvin Patrimonio, Jojo Lastimosa, Jerry Codinera, Al Solis, Glenn Capacio, Nelson Asaytono, Naning Valenciano, Edgar ‘Jack’ Tanuan, Pido Jarencio, and Dindo Pumaren. This was the core of the national team that placed third in the Asian Games of 1986 behind China and South Korea without a naturalized player in its line-up. The Hotdogs were coached by the legendary Virgilio ‘Baby’ Dalupan. The Beermen defeated them, 4 – 2, in a competitive series.
“In the Reinforced Conference, the Beermen faced crowd-favorite Anejo Rum 65 led by playing coach Robert Jaworski. Before, as it is today, there was no love lost between the sibling ballclubs as they went at each other in a bruising series. The 65ers were bannered by Dondon Ampalayo, Leo Isaac (now Blackwater coach), Chito and Joey Loyzaga, Rudy Distrito, Rey Cuenco, Peter Aguilar (Japeth’s dad), Philip Cezar, and the season Most Improved Player Dante Gonzalgo. The Beermen vanquished them, 4 – 1, for the title and the Grand Slam.
“A dominant center. An array of shooters. Excellent ballhandlers. Role players. Complementary imports. A coach who used to play. That was how the San Miguel Beermen human resource looked like when they last won a Grand Slam in 1989. Or is this the way to describe their present line-up?
“June Mar Fajardo is the reigning Most Valuable Player. The backcourt tandem of Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross, guards who can defend as well as they can shoot, have mostly complemented each other instead of overlapping roles. Marcio Lassiter is licensed to puncture the hoops. So is team captain Arwind Santos, who accepted his new role off the bench during the import-laden conferences. Gabby Espinas, Jay-R Reyes and Yancy de Ocampo provide ceiling. Brian Heruela, Ronald Tubid and new recruit Matt Ganuelas can dish out decent contributions when called into action. Even seldom used David Semerad, Arnold Van Opstal, Keith Agovida, and Rashawn McCarthy.
(Photo from pinoyboxbreak.com)
“The way San Miguel Beer has been winning, it shows the players’ buy-in to the system espoused by coach Leo Austria and team management. To be helpful to the Beermen, import Wendell McKines should be able to fit into his role the way Charles Rhodes stepped up for San Miguel in the Commissioner’s Cup. He is familiar with the PBA, having previously played with Alaska and Rain or Shine.
“To contend, the Beermen should also stay healthy. Any injury could derail their chances, no matter how deep their bench. Most of all, they should have the desire to make history. They should stay focused and visualize that moment when they etch their individual names into the annals of history as a member of the sixth team in the PBA to have achieved a Grand Slam. For if they blink, the TNT Tropang Texters, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Rain or Shine, Star Hotshots or the Meralco Bolts are only too willing to take that winning moment away.”
Incredible. Stunning. Unimaginable. Are there better adjectives to describe yesterday’s colossal wipeout, when J.R. Smith spun for a reverse jumpshot to end the half, and when Isiah Thomas was 0-8 in field goal attempts and only scored two free throw points?
How about Murphy’s Law? If anything could go wrong for the Celtics, it did, including an injury to I.T. As for the Cavs, it was the reverse: if anything could go right, it did, increasing their lead by double digits per quarter and LeBron James playing possessed: 12 of 18 for an easy 30 while icing his knees as the City of Boston perspired.
I don’t recall watching a game that lopsided. Boston’s the top seed? It’s like Gilas trampling over Malaysia in SEABA last week. Like Game 1, once again we’ve seen the rise of Kevin Love. He’s pushing his 6-foot-10 body towards the hoop against smaller defenders; he’s detonating those long-range bombs, 4 of 9 yesterday and 6 of 9 in Game 1.
The Cavs defense. Outstanding. They’re sprinting side to side, front to back; scurrying with arms outstretched and legs dancing; LeBron’s flying for blocks; they’re tirelss and relentless — thanks to the restful days when their batteries have been 100 percent fully-charged.
How about that passing? Led by one of the all-time best passers (King James), they toss the ball three, four, six times, all in rapid succession before finding the open Three or an alley-hoop jam. There’s no buaya like a Kobe or Westbrook; they’re having fun, they’re like a serious Harlem Globetrotters.
10-0. This was the same position they had last year. In 2016, they swept past Detroit, 4-0, manhandled Atlanta, then won their first two games against Toronto before losing the next two. Those twin losses to the Raptors were caused by their playing in Canada. Not this year. Games 3 and 4 are in Ohio and we expect a clean 12-0 slate before they face the Warriors.
All these post-season sorties are tune-up games for Part 3. Some people are happy with this; others are not. The NBA has 30 teams and only two dominate. Good or bad?
Blame it on Kevin and Kevin. When Love joined Kyrie and LeBron, plenty cried foul: they’re too strong. When Durant joined Klay and Steph, many shouted unfair. Bad for the league? If you’re an OKC or San Antonio follower, you’re frowning. Otherwise, this is terrific. Like the era of the Celtics-Lakers in the ‘80s or La Salle-Ateneo in Manila or Borg/McEnroe or Nadal and Federer or Senna/Prost or the Yankees vs. the Red Sox, a strong rivalry is riveting. The only problem: our patience is required. We need to endure these lopsided Rounds 1, 2 and 3 before the championship bell rings on June 1.
ILOILO CITY — Last Friday was a day of mourning and celebration.
It was an afternoon of mourning because we laid to rest Mrs. Corazon Garabato Gayanilo, the grandmother of my wife Jasmin (the mom of my mother-in-law, Malu Mendez) in Guimbal, Iloilo. It was also a day of celebration because relatives from Atlanta, New Jersey, Florida and various places converged to pay their last respects to an outstanding person.
Lola Zon was born on June 21, 1911. She was born a decade after Emilio Aguinaldo stood as our first leader and lived through all 15 succeeding Philippine presidents from Manuel Quezon to her namesake Corazon Aquino to Rodrigo Duterte.
“Corazon” means heart and it’s fitting that such a loving and kindhearted person would leave this temporal place for eternity during this month of hearts. Our family is often asked, How did Lola Zon live so long?
“She was not a vegetarian,” my mother-in-law Malu Mendez, the eldest child, said during the necrological service. “She was carnivorous!”
So it wasn’t her diet. Lola Zon also did not swim or run daily — so we cannot attribute extreme fitness as the reason. So, what was her secret to long life?
“She had big ears!” my mother-in-law said. By that, she meant that Lola Zon always listened. She always had time to listen and always had time for others — especially to her family of four children (Malu, Virgilio, Sol and Rene), 10 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. She lived simply. She laughed. She laughed a lot. And we know how good a medicine laughter is.
Lola Zon was a teacher. “The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book,” a quote reads. Her students spoke of her firmness but compassion and patience as a teacher. She loved to serve and give of herself — to her students from the various public schools that she taught in Igbaras, Passi, Iloilo City High School, and in Guimbal. As one of her projects in Guimbal, she helped build a kindergarten right beside the church.
Lola Corazon’s life was devoted to God. In his homily last Friday, Fr. Albie Labaro spoke of how Lola Zon’s hands clasped a rosary as we paid our respects — and how she must have prayed the rosary for decades until her last breath. She was a grateful person. Contented. Humble. Generous. My wife Jasmin said that she was very, very kind.
As the saying goes, “A good teacher takes a hand, opens a mind and touches a heart.”
In tennis, when you say “Swiss champion,” you refer to one and only one person. That’s Roger Federer. No male human being has accumulated more Grand Slam singles trophies (that’s 17 major titles) — and is as venerated and esteemed worldwide — as the Swiss Federer Express.
In summer of last year, my wife Jasmin, our daughter Jana and I had the privilege of traveling to one of the world’s richest nations that’s located at the heart of Europe. Thanks to the incredible hospitality of Fritz Strolz, we got to traverse most of Switzerland in three full-packed days.
As soon as Mr. Strolz — who’s now based in Cebu and is married to the dynamic and pretty Pearle — picked us up at the train station in Zurich (after treking by train from Milan), our activities ran non-stop.
We toured Geneva for a day and visited the IOC Museum. We ascended Mt. Rigi, watching from a distance the Swiss Alps capped with snow. We visited Lucerne and Lausanne and were able to see the headquarters of such giants as FIFA (football) and FIBA (basketball). Would you believe, a total of 45 international sporting associations house their headquarters in Switzerland.
A highlight of our Swiss trek: When I disembarked in the Tennis Club of Basel — the venue where Roger Federer practiced his backhands and volleys as a child. The club has multiple red clay courts and, inside the clubhouse, photos and memorabilia of Roger (signed by the tennis artist himself) adorned the walls.
You see, in this land famous for many things world-class — Rolex watches, Swiss chocolates, pharmaceutical companies, Swiss banks — when you mention tennis, the automatic response (much like Philippine boxing equals Manny Pacquiao) is Roger Federer.
Not yesterday. Not when RF is injured and is recuperating from a knee injury. Often relegated as the groomsman of Swiss tennis because he’s always overshadowed by the Swiss maestro, it was Stanislas Wawrinka who triumphed at the U.S. Open.
Thanks to the live, two-week-long telecast of the ABS-CBN Sports + Action HD channel 701, I arose before 6 a.m. yesterday to witness the men’s final.
How did Wawrinka defeat the almost-unbeatable world no. 1 Novak Djokovic?
First, he’s not afraid of Novak. While Roger and even Rafa Nadal seem to have a mental inferiority against Novak (of the last 12 times they’ve played, Nadal has lost 11), the same is not true with Stan. While he’s only won five of the 24 times they’ve played, those victories have come at the biggest of stages.
French Open 2016. Last year, Djokovic was set to win the only major title that has eluded him. Who stood in defiance to beat him? Wawrinka. At the 2014 Australian Open, it was Stan who not only upset Novak but also beat Nadal in the final to win his first major.
Second reason why Stan’s The Man: his backhand. That one-handed topspin is glorious. Even if he’s 12 feet behind the baseline, he can wallop that shot and hit a down-the-line winner. John McEnroe calls it “the best one-handed backhand in the game.” I agree. And so does, I’m sure, Novak.
Three: He serves big. Not a 6-foot-11 behemoth like Ivo Karlovic, this Swiss still has tremendous power, often exceeding 132-mph with his serve. In the final, he served nine aces to the six of Novak.
Four: He won the bigger points. In break point chances, Stan saved 14 of 17. That’s an incredible statistic (and Houdini-like escape) against the world’s top netter. At the opposite end, he converted on six of 10 break point chances. This contrast spelled the difference in the match. Had Novak converted on his chances.. he might have won his 13th slam.
Instead, on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, a new champion was coronated in New York.
The world-famous brand Milo, owned by the largest food conglomerate in the world (Nestle, employing a staggering 339,00 people and grossing $91 billion a year), is sponsoring the 21st edition of the MLO.
I was there in the first meeting when the Nestle executives flew to Cebu to introduce this major sporting event for the youth. Councilor Joy Young, with Ricky Ballesteros and a host of other sporting enthusiasts (including Bidoy Aldeguer) were present. If my recollection is correct of that meeting long time ago, it was held at the Ecotech Center.
This weekend, over 4,000 girls and boys from the Visayas are gathered to compete in the elementary and high school divisions.
Milo? Yes, we know the name to be the energy drink but, after a quick research, I found out that it traces its roots from a 6th century BC wrestler named Milo of Croton.
The encyclopedia Britannica says Milo was a “Greek athlete who was the most renowned wrestler in antiquity. His name is still proverbial for extraordinary strength.”
Milo was said to have joined six Olympic games and seven Pythian Games and won 32 times. “According to legend,” it continued, “Milo trained by carrying a calf daily from its birth until it became a full-sized ox. He is also said to have carried an ox on his shoulders through the stadium at Olympia.”
In this regard, Milo is literally putting its money where it’s drinking (Milo) mouth is by sponsoring these sporting events.
Two nights ago, I visited the SM Seaside City and the giant mall was the venue for multiple MLO events: gymnastics, karatedo, table tennis, chess, arnis, scrabble and taekwondo.
This is an excellent idea for several reasons. One, the comfort of the athletes and parents inside SM. Two, you’ve got seven events housed in one venue — perfect for officials and for the general public who want to watch. Three, you’ve got all the dining and recreational options after a stressful game for the athletes.
Which brings me to think: The mall can actually be an avenue not only for movies and restaurants and shopping — but also for even larger sporting events (think of the inclusion of the bowling alleys and the skating rink).
Looking ahead to the Palarong Pambansa in 2017, it’s a toss-up, I hear, between Bacolod and Cebu. I’d say the big advantage goes to the land where Lapu-Lapu killed Magellan.
First, Monico Puentevella — a major player in Philippine sports — lost in the elections for Bacolod City mayor to Bing Leonardia. Second, we last hosted the Palaro in 1994 while Bacolod hosted it in 1998. Which means that we ought to be given a slight edge for this, right?
Expect the SM Seaside City to be busy next summer if Cebu hosts the Palaro.
When I was a Grade 7 student in La Salle Bacolod, we were asked to inscribe a short message in our graduation book. My motto read: “To be like my father.”
Those five words, 32 years later, still hold true today.
Above all things, our dad Bunny has shown us — my siblings Charlie, Randy, Cheryl, Michael and I — how to love unconditionally. He spends time with us. He listens. If we have projects or concerns that need assistance, he’s there.
He’s present. And isn’t this the best present fathers can give their children? To be there always?
From as far back as I can remember, my dad was always present. During basketball or tennis games; in Sunday family dinners or birthdays — all we need to do is ask and he’d come.
My dad is generous. Both outside and especially inside, he is a good man. He is always looking at the other person’s viewpoint, not being selfish. His temperament mimics Barack Obama’s compared to Donald Trump’s. He is fair, honest and is a positive force who motivates others.
He is a lover of sports. And since I’m “obligated” to tackle this subject in these back pages, my dad Bunny has taught us to the importance of sports. To dribble; to swing that forehand; to exercise daily. I’ll never forget our trip to watch Serena Williams and Andre Agassi win the US Open. When Manny Pacquiao fought in Macau, we did the same. And ever the boxing fan, he flew to Las Vegas and witnessed the Manny vs. Money.
“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person,” Jim Valvano, the late basketball coach, once said. “He believed in me.”
Dad believes in us. He believes in others.
We thank Our Father above for giving us a father like dad.
Seven days have passed since that 13-seconder of a bombshell when Conor McGregor one-punched Jose Aldo into tears and, watching the replay videos and reading the post-fight commentaries, the UFC 194 clash is still talked about as arguably one of the most shocking of fight nights.
Jose Aldo, to the non-MMA follower, is near-invicible. Or, shall I now put it, was unbeatable. He not only won 25 of his 26 fights before last weekend — he was considered the No.1 pound for pound fighter in all of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He’s the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (minus the loud-mouth) of mixed-martial arts. And, for the past 18 fights spanning 10 years, he had never lost.
To be embarrassed and subdued and to crumble to the ground with his head wobbly and dazed in the shortest UFC championship fight in history makes that victory as one of 2015’s most incredible of stories.
Did the antics and mind games played by McGregor infiltrate the steely mind of the Brazilian? Definitely. Their clash was supposed to happen last July — until Aldo backed out because of injury. Since then, when McGregor defeated Chad Mendes, the Irishman has unleashed one verbal punch after another, insulting Aldo and taunting him. There’s no doubt that the once-inpenetrable brain of Aldo was pierced and wounded even before they stepped into the eight-sided ring.
What’s amazing was how McGregor looked so loose and relaxed, as if this were some rock concert in Dublin where he’d sing and dance while everyone clapped. This was the biggest Saturday of his life. And while many questioned his showboatmanship and moviestar-like publicity stunts prior to Dec. 12, after UFC 194, nobody will question his talent and gift.
It’s like that advertisement: “Blood. Sweat. And Respect. The first two you give; the last you earn.” Surely, given the years of sweat that McGregor has poured, he’s earned our respect.
What’s exciting about McGregor is his personality. While some superstars are reserved (Aldo) or gentlemen-like (Federer and Nadal; thus, not attracting controversy), the 27-year-old, 5-foot-9, 145-lb. featherweight champ is all about hoopla, hysteria and notoriety. That’s why he’s labeled The Notorious.
Sport is entertainment. And this man, to match his skill inside the octagon, is a wild beast of an entertainer whose body is littered with tattoos and whose English accent spews invectives. His being articulate is a huge plus for his appeal. Interviewed by Joe Rogan, the new champ delivers seven words onstage that should be memorized by every fighter: “Precision beats power and timing beats speed.”
As McGregor was ready for the win, he, too, was ready with that quotable quote. His conquest was massive. It goes beyond the personal triumph of a former plumber turned MMA celebrity; it was a major score for UFC’s popularity.
Speaking of upsets — as this was an upset win over Aldo — who would have pictured the all-red, all-swollen, all-demolished face of Chris Weidman. He looked smaller than Luke Rockhold. He looked less confident; his kicks stung less than the challenger’s. He was totally outclassed. Where was Anderson Silva’s tormentor? Given that bloody mess that carved Weidman’s face, Herb Dean should have stopped the bout at the end of the 3rd. Maybe the referee had too much respect for Weidman, thinking that the previously-undefeated New Yorker would resurrect himself? Maybe. Still, that was too brutal and grisly an ending.
The worst upset of all? The previous UFC event (UFC 193) held in Melbourne. Who’d have expected Ronda Rousey to be downed in Down Under. Wasn’t she the person whom Joe Rogan called, “Once in a lifetime doesn’t apply to Ronday Rousey. It’s once EVER in human history?” Those words were a bad omen. (On RR, you should read ESPN’s exclusive story, “Rousey Says She’s Down But Not Out,” her first interview since that embarrassment.)
Aldo. Weidman. Rousey. What does this teach us? “To never let success get to your head and to never let failure get to your heart.”