PURSUE a dream, never give up. And when a punch knocks you down, get back up and fight again.

This was the message ALA Founder Antonio L. Aldeguer told the young athletes who were awarded in last Thursday’s Sportswriters Association of Cebu-SMB Sports Awards at the Casino Español Ballroom.

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While everyone else in the country is focused on Manny Pacquiao’s upcoming fight, the Cebu sports community took time out to give its own hero, Z Gorres a tribute.

Gorres, who has battled death, exuded the true spirit of the champion after he forced himself to get out of his wheelchair and with the assistance of his wife Datches and coach Edito Villamor, slowly made his way to accept the presidential award given to him by SAC president John Pages in front of an emotional crowd.

ALA Boxing founder Antonio Aldeguer, who was supposed to give an inspirational speech to the young athletes, threw out his prepared five-page speech.

“I have prepared a speech that I have worked on for two days. But what else can I say to inspire you more, than what you have seen here,” said Aldeguer.

Aldeguer talked of Gorres’s harrowing ordeal when he was knocked down in the final 15 seconds of his 10-round bout against Luis Melendez.

From being considered as the future of RP boxing, that one punch robbed him of his career and almost cost him his life.

“In the first round, Gorres dominated the fight. The president of the WBO (Francisco Valcarcel) made a thumb’s up sign to my son, Michael, saying, Gorres is it. It was one of his best preformances. He KOed the guy in the third round. He was winning convincingly.”

Aldeguer said Valcarcel’s thumbs up sign meant Gorres was going to face Fernando Montiel in his next bout.

It never happened.

The senior Aldeguer said when he learned that Gorres was being rushed to the hospital, the image that he recalled was of the boxer as a kid.

“I look at him and it always takes me back many years ago when a small boy, who tagged along his brother, came to my gym. I could never forget that day when the nine-year-old kid cried after the sparring sessions. Not because he got hurt but because people told him he was not good enough. That he will never be good enough.”

But this did not stop him from pursuing his dream. He wanted to surpass his brother, and he did.

“Z fought the greatest battle not in the sport that he loved, not in the sport he aspired to dominate, not in the sport that he wanted to be a champion in, but in the fight for his life. And he won. And for that, athletes should be inspired.” (MCB)