(PHILIPPINE STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - Panamanian boxing fan Carlos Costa travels the world to watch his favorite fighters in action. He owns a company that deals in industrial safety machines and construction equipment, buying in China and exporting to Panama and Chile.

Whenever Costa is in China or anywhere in Asia for business, he makes it a point to visit the Philippines especially if there are boxing events. Through the years, he has made countless Filipino friends who are just as fanatical about the Sweet Science.

When Nonito Donaire Jr. took on Rafael Concepcion in Las Vegas last Saturday, Costa flew in from Hong Kong to watch the fight on TV with Gerry and Goody Peñalosa in their Manila home.

“I was in Hong Kong for business and since the fight wouldn’t be shown on Hong Kong TV, I went to Manila and watched with Gerry and Goody,” said Costa who picked his countryman to beat Donaire in a pre-fight prediction.

“I am a boxing fan first but my modus vivendi is business,” said Costa. “I visit the Philippines many times only when there are fights. I have gone to Leyte, Zamboanga, Cebu, Iligan and Manila. The first fight I saw in the Philippines was Z Gorres against Fernando Montiel in 2007. I think Gorres won (Montiel won by split decision). The point deduction on Gorres was not okay because it was only one low blow and Gorres is not a dirty fighter and it was not intentional.”

Costa said he has also gone to Mexico, Thailand and Las Vegas to watch fights.

“I love the boxing fans in the Philippines because they are so friendly,” he continued. “I love the ALA boxing people, especially Don Antonio Aldeguer who is a charming gentleman and knows so much about boxing. I think Don Antonio does so much for boxing in the Philippines. That is why I hope Gorres and (Milan) Melindo and Jason Pagara will become world champions.”

Among his Filipino boxing friends are Dong Secuya, Salven Lagumbay, Sammy Gello-ani and Dr. Ed de la Vega.

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About Concepcion, Costa said the rugged brawler is a huge Manny Pacquiao fan.

“Last year in Mexico City, Rafa was about to face Jorge Arce,” he related. “To lift up his spirits, I gave him a precious gift – a Pacquiao T-shirt autographed by the Pacman himself. Rafa loved it. He told me he will keep it forever. He admitted he is a great fan of Filipino fighters and he loves Manny and hopes to meet him someday. Rafa’s boxing hero is another Panamanian, Roberto Duran.”

Costa said Concepcion’s favorite Filipino fighters are Pacquiao, Gerry Peñalosa and Luisito Espinosa.

“He never mentioned Donaire,” continued Costa. “Rafa loves the Filipino people. He enjoyed his stay in Cebu last year when he fought A. J. Banal. He is eager and so willing to return to the Philippines for a rematch against Banal whom he respects and appreciates.”

Concepcion is extremely popular in Panama and in a poll before the Donaire fight, the local media overwhelmingly chose “El Torito” to win by knockout.

“Rafa is one of the five most popular fighters in Panama even if he’s not a world champion with less than 20 fights,” said Costa. “He is as popular as our world champions Celestino Caballero, Anselmo Moreno and Guillermo Jones. Fans love his warrior’s heart. Win or lose, he gives it his all in the ring.”

Costa said Concepcion is so attached to his mother Aura that he tattooed her name under his left arm. He is married and has a daughter Alyson. His manager Damon de Berry is from New Zealand and trainer is Rigoberto Garibaldi, a former fighter from Panama.

Costa said he was sure Concepcion would beat Donaire. In the Concepcion-Banal fight, he bet P40,000 for the Panamanian and collected from ring announcer Rico Navarro. Costa was just as confident that Concepcion would take care of Donaire.

“After the Banal victory, Rafa was received by the President of Panama,” he continued. “Rafa is a good guy, simple and kind and friendly and a good sport example for kids to be away from streets and get into the gyms and practice any sport.”

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Costa said of all the fights between Filipinos and Panamanians, the greatest encounter was between Flash Elorde and Ismael Laguna at the Araneta Coliseum in 1966.

“That was not a world title fight,” he pointed out. “Both are now in the Hall of Fame as legends. Elorde won by decision. But Elorde lost twice to Carlos Ortiz by knockout and Laguna defeated Ortiz to take his world title. In world title fights, it is Panama over the Philippines, 4-1, if you include the two interim world title bouts (Concepcion-Banal and Donaire-Concepcion).”

A world title fight he will always remember was when Panama’s Hilario (Sugar) Zapata beat Dodie Boy Peñalosa, now Donaire’s trainer, on points to retain the WBA flyweight crown at the University of Life stadium in 1986.

“That was a great fight,” recalled Costa. “I met Dodie Boy in Iligan City last year and when I went back to Panama, I told Zapata I saw Peñalosa. He told me Peñalosa is a great guy and will always be his friend.”

Peñalosa, however, would rather forget the Zapata fight. He lost a unanimous 15-round decision before a disappointed hometown crowd. The judges’ scorecards weren’t close – Bernie Soto saw it 148-139, Fritz Werner 145-143 and Lou Tabat 144-142. Referee was South Africa’s Stanley Christodoulou.

Peñalosa said he had never seen Zapata in action but was told the Panamanian was a fighter, not a boxer. He was surprised when Zapata refused to engage and boxed from long range throughout the dull bout. Because of his shorter left leg (handicapped by polio since he was a boy), Peñalosa couldn’t chase down Zapata and lost in a running battle.

Costa said despite Donaire’s win over Concepcion, he remains a fan of Filipino boxing and will always be a friend to Filipinos.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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