New boxing talents abound in N. Cotabato

Boxer Rolando Magbanua of Pigcawayan CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Even in the din of the celebration following Edrin “The Sting” Dapudong’s historic feat of winning North Cotabato’s first world boxing title, the question I am often confronted with is: “Will there be other local boys who could win world boxing titles in the future?”

My answer to this is: “Yes. We have many other boys who could become world champions as well.”

Edrin is only one of the boys who were developed by the “Paboksing Para sa Masa,” a grassroots boxing program I started when I became governor of North Cotabato in 1998 which was handled by my two brothers, Noli and Socrates, and supported by the provincial government.

What we did was build two boxing rings, which were brought to fiestas in the different barangays and towns all over the province where barefoot kids would compete for a measly P100 for the winner and P50 for the loser.

From among these kids, we selected the members of the provincial amateur boxing team who were later trained by a Cuban coach, Honorato Espinosa, who was brought to North Cotabato with the help of the Philippine Sports Commission then under Chairman Butch Ramirez.

Espinosa, on the other hand, trained local trainers like Bruce Lerio, Ronald Brato, Rex Penalosa, Gilbert Ancog and Ramuel Ovalo.

When I left office in 2007, most of the kids produced by the program told me they wanted to turn professional and this was when I and my brothers decided to continue the boxing program and strengthened the Braveheart Boxing Club.

All these years, young boxers were screened and tested and only those who really felt that boxing was their career stayed and persevered.

Today, besides Dapudong, there are other young boys, who, given more refinement could make a name for themselves in boxing.

There is the 27-year-old orphan from Bual Norte, Midsayap, Lorenzo Villanueva, who lost in his first attempt at the world title last year even when he had Indonesian Daud Yordan in the seat of his pants in the first round.

Villanueva, in spite of his natural power, is awkward and needs a lot of refinement in his fighting style and he is undergoing an overhaul with the help of veteran trainer Aljoe Jaro, who is himself from Matalam, North Cotabato.

The other prospects are Rolando Magbanua, a bantamweight from Pigcawayan; Ronnie Apilado, a junior featherweight from Midsayap; Rommel Asenjo, a junior flyweight from Pig-cawayan; Roskie Cristobal, a tall lightweight from Pres. Roxas and a former Palarong Pambansa gold medalist, Sharmagne Sarguilla, a miniflyweight from Midsayap.

In my hometown of M’lang, there are the Lomacad brothers-Joemer and Leopoldo—who are naturally gifted in the sport. Joemer has gone back to school while Leopoldo is just waiting for the call to return to the training camp.

Among all of these kids, however, I believe that the boy who has the best chance of making it big is Roskie Cristobal, who was brought to us by his parents when he was only 17 years old and a product of the efforts of Ramuel Ovalo in President Roxas town.

Roskie turned pro last year in Pigcawayan town and we had to get the consent of his father because he was only 17.

He knocked out his first opponent in the first round and has since scored four wins all by knockout in the first round.

Roskie has been inactive for almost eight months now because he got sick with dengue earlier this year and also because he and the other boys helped in my electoral campaign this year.

Today, Roskie is a 5′ 11″ tall 18-year-old who moves comfortably and naturally at 136 lbs. which is the weight division for a lightweight fighter.

He possesses natural power as shown by his knockout record this early.

But Roskie needs to be nurtured, to be supported and guided so that a talent like him will not be wasted.

Given the needed support, I believe Roskie Cristobal has the best chance of making it big.

But beyond Roskie, the search for the next world champion from North Cotabato continues.

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