My friend Britt and I headed over to Cebu City to meet up with Jon and attend a boxing match. Boxing is a national sport here. While it’s not the highest in participation (that goes to basketball), it’s the most popular spectator sport, especially when Manny Pacquiao is fighting. Pac-Man wasn’t involved in this fight – he only fights in Las Vegas now (Oscar De La Hoya is next!) – but one of the more popular Pinoy boxers, Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista, was set to defend his WBO crown. I’d never been to a match before and didn’t know if I’d ever have the chance to go to another high profile event again.
The event took place at the super-swanky Waterfront Hotel and Casino, which is actually at least 5 km from the water. We got there about halfway through the undercard bouts and bought tickets in the medium range, for about $12. The ring was set up in a huge ballroom with a balcony, and our seats were on the floor decently close to the canvas. We spent the first couple fights wondering what made the “piff” noise when punches were thrown and enjoying the action. It was all Pinoy-vs-Pinoy until the three biggest fights. First a non-title bout was fought between a Filipino and a Thai, who looked like he was trying to be Tony Jaa. But Ong-Bak doesn’t work when you’re boxing, and he left himself open to numerous head jabs. The Filipino won.
Next, there was a title match between 105-pounders. The Pinoy title holder, Donnie Nietes, took on an overmatched Nicaraguan and knocked him out in the second round. Finally, Boom Boom was up. His opponent was a Mexican, Eden Marquez, who had been talking a good deal of trash before the fight, even “declaring war” on the Philippines. Boom Boom hasn’t been without his struggles – a promising fighter with strong knockout power, he’s compiled a very good record, but had an embarrassing first round knockout against a different Mexican less than a year ago, and has had to redouble his efforts. The first round, he just danced around the ring and only threw a few punches, letting Marquez tire himself out. Then, in the second round, he pounced and knocked him out in less than a minute. A long trip from Mexico for less than 4 minutes of action!
We hollered and jumped and celebrated with the rest of the crowd, proud that Boom Boom had easily disposed of his opponent and represented the Visayas well in retaining his WBO 122-lb crown. The best part was probably the post-fight interview, where a Filipina reporter from Manila was asking questions in Tagalog. Boom Boom understood her questions, but requested to just respond in Cebuano. The crowd loved it! I’ve possibly never felt so culturally integrated and proud to be an adopted Visayan, laughing along with the crowd as we all understood Boom Boom’s responses while the flustered Tagalog-speaking reporter tried her best to figure out what he was saying.