THE brutal sport of boxing has always been an outlet for underprivileged kids to somehow lift themselves out of poverty. With the rags-to-riches story of Manny Pacquiao, more and more children are being drawn to boxing, in the hopes of following in the footsteps of one of the greatest fighters in boxing history.
“I want to be successful through boxing,” said Grade 6 pupil Kevin Tugot, who trains along with over 30 amateur hopefuls at the ALA Boxing Gym.
Tugot, 12, who joined ALA Boxing Gym’s amateur boxing program last year, has already had five fights in amateur shows at the Gaisano Country Mall. He has won three and dropped two so far.
Kenneth Morales, another 12-year-old amateur boxer, got into the sport for a different reason.
“I want boxing because my father wants me to box,” he said.
Not everyone makes it
Like Tugot, Morales, who started boxing just last November, also dreams of becoming a pro just like his idol, Donnie Nietes, a three-division world champion and a staple at the ALA Boxing Gym. Morales has yet to make his first amateur fight.
KJ Cataraja, a promising up-and-comer in the pro level, handles the young amateurs at the ALA Boxing Gym and has high hopes for both youngsters.
“At first, there were a lot of them. I gave them the hardest training to test them. Some never came back but these two never quit,” said Cataraja.
Tugot and Morales are just starting their long and grueling road ahead in the hopes of reaching their dreams.
Marco Pumar, John Niño Vega, and Vicente Sios-e Jr., on the other hand, are little bit closer.
The three have been standouts as amateurs, winning in various national meets.
The 19-year-old Pumar is a two-time gold medalist in the Private Schools Athletic Association (Prisaa) and was named Best Boxer of the tournament just this year. Vega, 15, and Sios-e Jr., 16, are both gold medalists in the Palarong Pambansa.
“I want to be a world champion,” said Pumar, who looks up to Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire Jr., Nietes, and his coach Cataraja, a BS Criminology graduate.
Though he has dreams of becoming a world champion, Pumar believes that finishing his education should be his main priority for now.
“Even though I’m tired, quitting never went through my mind because boxing sends me to school,” he said.
Pumar, whose father’s side is a family of boxers, is a second year BS Criminology student at the University of the Visayas (UV), where he has a full scholarship.
He goes to school in the evening, trains every morning on Fridays and Saturdays at the ALA Gym in Mandaue City and every Sunday at the 10,000 BC Gym in Talisay City. He earns extra cash by working as a trainer at the ALA Fitness Gym in Banawa, Cebu City.
Sios-e Jr., a Grade 11 student at Benedicto College, also believes that getting a degree is very important.
“I want to finish with my studies so I will have different options. But I won’t quit boxing because the work that I have put into it will all be put to waste if I won’t proceed to being a pro,” said Sios-e, who patterns his style from that of Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Sios-e Jr., whose father is a former kickboxer, has temporarily stopped training to focus on his studies. But he vowed to return and turn pro when he finishes school.
Vega also dreams big and wants to be a superstar in the sport. “I want to be famous and become a world champion,” he said.
Vega trains in the morning and then goes to the Liloan National High School in the afternoon.
“I just endure it a little bit,” he said of his tiring routine. “I train and fight for my family.”
These kids may or may not reach superstar status. They may even be left in obscurity like most boxers, or follow a different path in life. But what has kept them hard at work, despite getting bruised, bloodied, and beaten up in this violent sport, is the hope that one day, they’ll have their own fairy tale ending.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on July 02, 2017.
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