(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - North Cotabato Gov. Manny Piñol is set to leave today for Bangkok to arrange for the immediate return of boxer Lito Sisnorio’s remains back home and unravel the circumstances that led to the ring tragedy.

Sisnorio, 24, was knocked out by former world flyweight champion Chatchai Sasakul in Samutprakarn last Friday night. After the fight, Sisnorio vomited and underwent emergency surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain. He died at 2 a.m. Saturday.

It was later discovered Sisnorio fought in Thailand without GAB clearance. His GAB license expired last Dec. 31 and was never renewed.

President Arroyo yesterday gave Piñol her personal go-signal to leave for Bangkok to bring back Sisnorio. He will be accompanied by two staffers.

"I will file a case against those who brought Lito to Thailand without the GAB’s permit to travel," said Piñol. "One of our fighters Tommy Terado recently fought in Thailand twice without our knowledge. The GAB should be more vigilant. Fighters are moving in and out of the country under its nose. This practice has to stop before more fighters are killed."

Piñol said he will personally initiate an investigation to bring the unscrupulous fight brokers to justice.

"I’ve decided to go to Thailand because nothing seems to be happening," said Piñol. "I’m attending to Lito’s family. But I’m looking at this problem on a long-term basis. I don’t want this kind of rigging to happen ever again."

Piñol said he will secure a power of attorney from Sisnorio’s family authorizing him to take custody of the corpse.

Sisnorio is from Koronadal but moved to Kidapawan, where Piñol lives, when he joined former manager Jemuel Contayoso’s stable four years ago. He also met Jonahmae (Lalang) Bacus, the second of seven children and went steady.

"Lito was a good boy," said Bacus’ mother Lucia. "He visited my daughter at home. They saw each other for two years. They had no plans to get married because Lalang is still in school, taking up education at Central Mindanao Colleges."

Bacus’ mother welcomed Piñol’s offer of assistance.

"I hope Gov. Piñol helps Lito’s family," said the mother. "They’re very poor and they live very far away. You can’t even go to their home in a jeep or a tricycle."

Sisnorio and stablemate Michael Rodriguez used to live in Contayoso’s home but left without advice, for Bangkok with another fighter Roel (Kid) Orais last Jan. 14. Rodriguez came back last March 25 but Sisnorio stayed behind for the fight against Sasakul. Orais is still in Thailand.

Rodriguez said he was shocked to find out Sisnorio had died.

"I heard the news on Bombo Radyo," said Rodriguez, now in General Santos City. "I couldn’t believe it. I even saw Lito’s plane ticket dated April 1 before I left Thailand. He was supposed to come home after fighting Sasakul. Lito was in good shape. He didn’t do anything in Thailand except to train for 2 1/2 months."

Rodriguez pointed to Thai Panya Prachakorn as the matchmaker who contacted a certain Rex Paciones in Manila to book Sisnorio, Orais and himself for fights in Thailand. He said Paciones works for boxing broker Bong Obero and recently flew to Korea.

Piñol’s brother Soc, a fight promoter, said Sisnorio was an average fighter who had no chance of beating Sasakul.

GAB boxing chief Dr. Nasser Cruz said Sisnorio’s death was the first involving a Filipino fighter since Freddie Gimay in Cagayan de Oro in October 2003.

"Because no visa is required for a Filipino to go to Thailand, the illegal recruitment of retired, suspended or inferior fighters is flourishing," said Cruz.

Meanwhile, the family of Sisnorio will get very little from the big sacrifice he had made in agreeing to fight the former WBC flyweight champion. Writer Scott Mallon, in a report at the, said that the family of the 24-year-old Sisnorio, will receive 100,000 baht which amounts to around P135,000 from insurance. Mallon later described the amount as "not much for a human life."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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