Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sen. Koko Pimentel Probes the Real Brutality of Boxing

Friends over at Get Real Philippine Community will probably wince when they read this, but I am a Manny Pacquiao Fan.  

Every time Manny wins, there's a little Flip in my that thumps his chest and shouts "Proud to be  Pinoy!"

But, after learning about the struggles and outright brutality scores of unknown Filipino boxers face outside the ring, I think my inner Flip Manny Pacquiao fan will have to sober up a bit.

The Plight of Unknown Filipino Boxers

You see, while millions of Filipinos cheer Manny Pacquiao on, there are hundreds of other unknown Filipino boxers slugging away and trying to eke out a living from the sport.

Unknown Filipino boxers who have not earned the stature of Pacquiao engage in fighting bouts for paltry sums of prize money which they have to split with their manager (at a hefty 50-50 or in some cases, with just 40 percent going to the boxer).  Those who already have earned rank are paid about P1,000 per round whether they win or lose in a fight -- which is a tough way to make a living.

One story that was told to me by a former boxer who is now a boxing trainer at a gym is that, despite all the gear they have on, boxers always go down the ring suffering bruises and cuts.  They are seldom given medical attention after fights and they are usually left to their own devices as far as getting some sort of medical treatment is concerned.

The boxing trainer I spoke to even says that some boxers who get knocked out even go home riding a jeep. No stay at the hospital, no post fight medical examination of any sort.

Now, not being treated for fight injuries is one thing.  Getting stiffed by either your promoter or manager is another thing.

One former fighter says he was offered a fight in Japan in 2002 and the papers he signed in the Philippines stated his opponent would be 112 pounds.  When he arrived in Japan, he was surprised to find out that his opponent was 122 pounds and he was clearly outmatched.  Despite being somewhat duped, he decided to throw care to the wind (or in tagalog'bahala na!') and push through with the fight.  He claims to have busted his opponent's right eyebrow open and this caused the referee to stop the fight.  But for some reason, the promoter prevailed upon the referee to continue the fight and just as the unknown Filipno boxer was scoring 10s from all the judges, a towel from his corner flew into the ring.  Someone in his corner stopped the fight.

The thing is, he was flown to Japan and when he got there, there were no officials from our country to certify that the fight was legit.  He didn't have anyone in his corner looking out for him and he was cheated out of a sure victory.

But despite "losing", he was at least paid for his performance -- which was a bit of a consolation.

He was lucky he didn't end up like Lito Sisnorio:
Angelito "Lito" Sisnorio Jr. (October 10, 1982 - April 1, 2007) was a Filipino World Boxing Council youth flyweight champion boxer who died following a controversial boxing match in Thailand in April 2007. The controversy over the match arose from the fact that Sisnorio's role in the fight was not officially sanctioned by the Philippine Games and Amusement Board. 
He reportedly sustained brain injuries during the fight on March 31, 2007, which he lost by knockout to Thai boxer Chatchai Sasakul. Following unsuccessful brain surgery, he was pronounced dead at Piyamin Hospital in Thailand at 9:15 PM, April 1, 2007. 
His death prompted the Philippine Games and Amusement Board to ban all fights involving Filipino boxers in Thailand starting April 2007

Dying for the sport

Getting stiffed by a promoter or manager is one thing, but becoming a stiff or dying from boxing related injuries is probably the worst thing that can happen to a boxer.

Just this year, Filipino Flyweight Karlo Maquinto died after sustaining head injuries in a fight.

Here's a snippet of a news article on Maquinto's death:
The right-hander, fighting only his ninth bout as a professional boxer, was taken to hospital last Saturday after rallying from two early knockdowns to salvage a majority draw against fellow Filipino Mark Joseph Costa. 
Maquinto, 8-0-1 with six wins by knockout, collapsed after the four-round bout in northern Manila. 
Rhoby Orata, another member of the hospital medical staff, told ABS-CBN television in an interview that Maquinto was diagnosed with brain swelling, with a blood clot also detected at the right side of his brain. 
“From the start Karlo’s prognosis was not good,” Orata added.
A while back, there was the story of Z Gorres who nearly bought the farm but recovered from brain-swelling.

Moving the Create the Philippine Boxing Council

I first became aware of a move the create the Philippine Boxing Council through a status update posted on Sen. Koko Pimentel's Fanpage on Facebook.

The short update reads:
Born out of last Thursday's hearing of the committee on games and sports, boxing great and Sarangani representative Congressman Pacquiao and I agreed to push for the creation of the Philippine Boxing Commission (PBC).  
The PBC will take care of all details about boxing to benefit all stake-holders most especially the boxers who we all want to have long productive careers and from whose ranks we also hope to produce the next Manny Pacquiao. 
Boxing is the best chance for our country's 1st Olympic gold medal and more worldwide sports glory for our county. By creating the PBC, this will ensure that we will produce more Pacmans and protect the well-being of our Pinoy boxers.
The senator has yet to file the Senate version of the proposed Philippine Boxing Council but there is strong support for the idea of an official body that will look after the welfare of Filipino boxers.

At an informal consultation meeting with boxers and boxing trainers at Elorde's Gym in Ortigas, former boxers and 4 current boxing champions took advantage of the opportunity to tell Pimentel about some of their concerns.

All the boxers approved of the creation of a Philippine Boxing Council, saying that they really needed government agency that focused on assuring the welfare of those who engage in boxing as a professional sport.

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