ARE the next three days the biggest sporting weekend this 2017? Yes. Starting tomorrow until Sunday, it’s the Cebu Dragonboat Fiesta. Over 1,000 paddlers hailing from our 7,107 islands will converge at the Cebu Yacht Club to ride on long, sleek boats as they’ll strike the Mactan water with their wooden paddles. They’ll pull up, crush the sea, push against the bubbles, all in unison and under one beat. That’s dragonboat.
On Saturday night, it will be, as Chris Aldeguer perfectly said, a “historical one” for Cebu. It will be the Aldeguer family’s pride in the Pinoy Pride 40 as Donnie Nietes, undefeated in over a dozen years, will ascend the square and enthrall the Cebuanos. Already the longest-reigning Filipino world champion, Donnie was the planet’s top boxer in the 105-lb. (minimumweight) and 108-lb. (light-flyweight) categories. If he wins two nights from today at the Waterfront Hotel, he will become only the third Filipino to have won belts in three weight classes. Today, he joins Luisito Espinosa and Gerry and Dodie Boy Peñalosa as two weight-division champs. If he’s victorious this weekend, he’ll join the exclusive club that include Nonito Donaire (four-division world titles) and Sen. Manny Pacquiao (eight-division world titles).
Nietes, who turns 35 this May 12, will fight a Thailander who is seven years younger. At 27 years old, Komgrich Nantapech, who carries a 22-3-0 win-loss-draw record, is banking on his age saying, “I have youth on my side.” Unfortunately for him, Nietes has heard this “he’s-too-old” mantra too many times before and has so much experience and maturity.
Nantapech is ranked IBF No. 4 and he’s hoping for the same miracle that his fellow Thai experienced last March 18. This was when the previously-undefeated Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (who won 46 times with 38 KOs) suffered a shocking defeat to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
“It made me feel proud,” Nantapech said of his countryman’s win. “It was definitely a big upset, and I believe it was a great win for boxing in Thailand.”
Can the Thai beat the Pinoy? Nah. Nietes is an even more overwhelming favorite to win this Saturday compared to Pacquiao besting the unknown Jeff Horn this July 2. And if our senator said “No worries, mate” two days ago in Brisbane, our own Nietes would also say, “Ayaw ka gu-ol, bai!”
PBA. To add to the Donnie and Dragonboat festivities, it’s the All-Star game this Sunday. The PBA has decided to traverse our three main regions. First, the game representing Mindanao in Cagayan de Oro last night. This Sunday, it will be at the Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City for the Visayas leg. And, on April 30, it will be the Luzon region in Lucena City. It’s an excellent idea to spread the popularity of basketball across the country and not just inside the confines of MOA or Araneta Coliseum.
This Sunday here in Cebu, it will be the PBA All-Stars team led by our own June Mar Fajardo against the Gilas Pilipinas. The roster of PBA players include James Yap, Terrence Romeo, Joe Devance, Jeff Chan, Chris Ross, Chris Ellis, Aldrech Ramos, Dondon Hontiveros, Ronald Tubid, Asi Taulava, Jericho Cruz and Fajardo. Representing Gilas Pilipinas are Jayson Castro, Jio Jalalon, LA Revilla, RR Pogoy, Allein Maliksi, Von Pessumal, Mark Belo, Troy Rosario, Calvin Abueva, Raymond Almazan, and Japeth Aguilar. The PBA squad will be coached by Tim Cone while the Phil. team will be coached by Chot Reyes. Three side events will be included. There’s an Obstacle Challenge, the 3-point Shootout, and the exciting Slam Dunk Contest.
WKND. Finally this weekend, there’s a sports, lifestyle and music party at the Mactan Newtown dubbed WKND. For sports, it will offer games that include beach volleyball, jetski racing and beach soccer.