MANILA, APRIL 11, 2008
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - Freddie Roach almost didn’t fly in for Gerry Peñalosa’s WBO bantamweight title defense against Ratanachai Sor Vorapin of Thailand at the Araneta Coliseum last Sunday.

Four days before, he went to the Los Angeles Airport ready to board the Philippine Airlines flight to Manila only to be told at the check-in counter, his passport had lapsed.

“I didn’t realize my passport expired last December,” said Roach. “My lawyer told me it takes 48 hours to get a new passport but I couldn’t wait that long because I would miss Gerry’s fight. I took a chance in going to the US Federal Building in Los Angeles the next day and luckily, the person in charge of passports was a boxing fan. I mentioned I had to be in Manila for Gerry’s fight. To my surprise, my passport was ready in six hours.”

* * *

Frolicking at ringside during Peñalosa’s fight were WBC superfeatherweight champion Manny Pacquiao’s sons Jimuel, 7, and Michael Stephen, 6, with best friends, trainer Buboy Fernandez’ sons Paul, 7, and John Kylo, 5. Fernandez’ daughter Mary Divine, 2, was also at the Big Dome. Fernandez joined Roach in Peñalosa’s corner for the Vorapin fight. Another member of the crew was Peñalosa’s brother Jonathan.

It was a treat for the kids to get together because Fernandez’ children live in Bicol and rarely visit their best friends in Manila.

Pacquiao watched the fight from a front row seat with wife Jinkee, former Gov. Chavit Singson, Secretary Lito Atienza and son Ali, former Sen. Ramon Revilla and business manager Eric Pineda with wife Macy.

Those in the audience included Games and Amusements Board chairman Eric Buhain, Mexican fighter Juan Manuel Marquez, former world titlist Luisito Espinosa, Mayor Jayvee Ejercito, Mayor Dan Neri Lim, Mayor Leonardia, ABC-5 owner Tony Boy Cojuangco, banker Eric Tagle, Fil-Am UFC fighter Brandon Vera, Rex (Wakee) Salud, Golden Boy vice president Eric Gomez, WBO Asia-Pacific chairman Leon Panoncillo, Cesar Montano, Bayani Agbayani, international matchmaker Jun Sarreal and PBA coach Binky Favis whose father-in-law Fernando Aldeguer’s brother Tony owns the ALA boxing stable.

Vera, who is based in San Diego, flew in to promote his UFC fight against Fabricio Werdum in London on June 7. He recently signed a six-bout contract extension with UFC, the popular mixed martial arts league. Vera’s father Ernesto is a Filipino and his stepmother Amelia Guerra, a Filipina. His biological mother Paula is Italian. His parents split up before he turned three.

Vera’s first trip to Manila was when he was eight years old. He has since returned for at least five more visits. Last year, Vera and bride Kerry spent their honeymoon here.

* * *

Peñalosa’s manager Billy Keane, 36, flew in from Los Angeles six days before the Ratanachai fight and left last Monday with Roach, his best friend.

Keane was only 18 when he left his hometown Chicago – where his father used to promote boxing – to find fame and fortune in L.A. His first job was doing butler work at the Playboy Mansion. Keane later became an actor and appeared in at about 20 TV commercials. His resume lists roles in several TV programs, including “Cold Feet.”

In Hollywood, Keane was considered a “hunk” and dated the likes of Meg Ryan with whom he reportedly had a stormy relationship. He met Roach while working out in the gym with actor Mickey Rourke. That was nearly 20 years ago and they’ve since become best friends. Roach and Keane live a 10-minute walk away from each other in an L. A. suburb.

“Freddie and I are so close that when he had his car accident a few weeks ago driving home from a fight (in Cabazon, California) I also had a totally unrelated car accident on another highway,” said Keane. “We’ve traveled all over the world together for boxing. And we’ve been involved in at least 20 world title fights.”

Keane manages a stable of six fighters, including IBF superflyweight champion Dimitri Kirilov of Russia, Peñalosa, Filipino Diosdado Gabi and Scottish middleweight Craig McEwan who has a 10-0 record, with six KOs.

Keane is involved in real estate. He recently invested in a $600,000 condo unit and got an $800,000 offer for it the day after the purchase. “He has very good business sense,” said Roach.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved