(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - It’s not often that Japanese fighters see action beyond their home shores. That’s because there are more than enough Japanese promoters with the money to stage bouts in their backyards.

The situation is unlike in the Philippines where only in Cebu are there regular big cards. Boxing promotions in Metro Manila are few and far between. Ticket sales don’t make a dent since traditionally, more fans watch for free than those who pay their way in. The only way a show can at least breakeven is if sponsors, mainly traditional boxing benefactors PCSO and Pagcor, back it up.

Check out today’s reigning Japanese world champions and you’ll find out they all won their titles on home soil –Yutaka Niida, Eagle Kyowa (native Thailander, now living in Japan with a Japanese wife), Diasuke Naito, Takefumi Sakata and Hozumi Hasegawa.

The three Filipino world champions captured their belts abroad – Florante Condes, Nonito Donaire Jr. and Gerry Peñalosa. Count Manny Pacquiao in, too, because the Filipino icon has won his biggest bouts overseas.

So when MP (Manny Pacquiao) Promotions assembled a card featuring four Filipinos against Japanese visitors at the Mall of Asia parking lot last Saturday, it was a rare treat.

During Flash Elorde’s golden era, Japanese fighters frequently traveled here because there were promoters like Lope (Papa) Sarreal Sr., Mamerto Besa and Jorge Araneta willing to invest big bucks in major cards. Besides, Asia’s top contenders were mostly Filipinos at the time, meaning if Japanese prospects wanted to get ahead in the rankings, they had to come over and risk fighting on hostile territory.

The last Japanese to fight for a world title in Manila was Morito Kashiwaba who was knocked out in the 13th round by Ben Villaflor in a WBA superfeatherweight championship bout in 1976 – 31 years ago! Preceding Kashiwaba were Susumu Hanagata (who lost a decision to Erbito Salavarria in 1971) and Teruo Kosaka (who was stopped by Elorde in 1965).

Rex (Wakee) Salud, one of Pacquiao’s closest associates, brought in the four Japanese fighters with help from Joe Koizumi who manages OPBF lightweight king Randy Suico. It probably took a lot of convincing for the Japanese fighters to fly over. Surely, they didn’t come for the money because there are opportunities to earn more in Japan.

The least the Filipino ring officials could do was to give the visitors a fair shake. Here was a chance for Filipinos to prove their integrity, what with all the talk of the prevalent culture of corruption. Unfortunately, we blew it.

In the WBO Asia-Pacific superfeatherweight title bout, Japanese challenger Ryu Miyagi was clearly robbed of a knockout victory when referee Bruce McTavish ruled defending champion Jimrex Jaca – nearly out on his feet – unfit to continue because of a cut supposedly inflicted by an accidental headbutt. Because McTavish stopped it in the second round, the fight was declared a technical draw.

The crowd in the parking lot was silent as McTavish raised the arms of both fighters to proclaim the draw with Jaca retaining the crown. There was absolutely no applause. Fans, in fact, were wondering how what seemed like a sure knockout win for Miyagi turned into a draw.

Miyagi’s record was 16-1-2, with 12 KOs, including 10 in the first three rounds while Jaca’s mark was 28-3-1, with 13 KOs. Both were hard hitters with a devil-may-care attitude. The indication was the fight would end early.

Sure enough, they met head on at the first bell. Jaca took an eight-count then another. McTavish interrupted the action twice for ringside physician Dr. Redentor Viernes to check on Jaca’s cuts. It appeared like McTavish and Dr. Viernes were in cahoots to delay the action and allow Jaca time to recover. When the hostilities resumed, Jaca landed a left hook that staggered Miyagi and sent him down. The bell rang with both warriors whaling away.

In the second round, Jaca came out smoking until Miyagi tagged him again. Jaca, bleeding from cuts all over his face, was pinned against the ropes, ready to fall, when McTavish stepped in to summon Dr. Viernes once more. There was no signal of a headbutt so when the fight was stopped because of Jaca’s condition, fans thought Miyagi had won by technical knockout. Instead, a technical draw was announced.

WBO Asia-Pacific chairman Leon Panoncillo, supervising at ringside, said McTavish’s call was final and justified the technical draw. McTavish himself insisted Jaca’s cut couldn’t have been opened by a punch because it was too deep. He said Miyagi even thanked him after the bout.

What a travesty! Nobody saw the headbutt that caused Jaca’s cut. What everyone saw was how Miyagi badly mauled Jaca and was on the verge of scoring a knockout. Joven Jorda, a former Filipino boxer now living in Japan as a trainer, said Miyagi felt shortchanged. Jorda, who worked Miyagi’s corner and speaks Japanese, said the excessive delays caused by repeated interruptions to call in Dr. Viernes prevented Miyagi from scoring a decisive win. Miyagi’s camp, however, didn’t protest. Japanese are too proud to bellyache since in boxing, nothing could come out of it anyway. The referee’s decision is final, whether you like it or not.

Roach clamps down on Cebu fans By Abac Cordero Wednesday, August 29, 2007

(STAR) It’s now Freddie Roach who makes the call on who stays in or out of the gym while Manny Pacquiao is training.

“From now on it’s Freddie’s call,” said Rex “Wakee” Salud, owner of the Cebu City gym being used by Pacquiao as his training ground for an Oct. 6 rematch with Marco Antonio Barrera.

Salud said those who want to get a glimpse of Pacquiao’s training, including mediamen, will have to get permission from him first before they even get the chance.

“I only screen them. But the final say will come from Freddie. If he says ‘yes,’ then you’re in, but if he says ‘no,’ then you’re out,” said Salud who spent a fortune putting up the gym.

“We will implement this rule. Once a week, there’ll be a fans and media workout. But you still need the pass, and Freddie’s approval to get in,” added the Cebuano promoter.

The new rule took effect yesterday after Roach nearly blew his top last Monday due to the uncontrollable influx of people who have come to see Pacquiao train.

Roach rued the fact that Pacquiao fans don’t seem to understand the importance of giving the 28-year-old boxer all the space he needs during his daily workout at the gym.

“It’s disappointing. I want Manny to have focus, but nobody’s helping me out,” said Roach, who threatened to spring Pacquiao out of Cebu and straight to his own Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles.

“If I have an opportunity, I would fly him home because I know the Wild Card Gym is closed,” said Roach. “I have nothing against the fans. Plain and simple, I just want Manny to focus.”

For a change, Pacquiao decided to train outside of the Wild Card in Los Angeles so he could have more time to focus. But the way it’s been going over the past week shows otherwise.

“Freddie was mad,” said Pacquiao’s chief of staff Jake Joson yesterday. “He couldn’t understand why some people who are already in can’t even wait to get their pictures taken with Manny.”

“Manny moves from one corner of the gym to another, and he is stopped by fans with cameras. Even Freddie.

Someone would suddenly put an arm around him and have a picture taken,” he said.

Joson said a meeting was held Monday night among Pacquiao, Roach, Salud and other team members on how to address the issue, barely six week heading into the fight in Las Vegas.

“Freddie’s just fed up. It’s time we, including the fans, show him that we’re as serious as he is,” added Joson.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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