TWO battle-scarred warriors and a young, promising golfer whose exemplary exploits in the world stage gave Philippine sports something to cheer about in 2015.
Boxing champions Donnie Nietes and Nonito Donaire Jr. along with Asia Tour winner Miguel Tabuena carved out memorable victories one after the other on a year when success came few and far between for Filipino athletes.
For their triumphant campaigns, the three shares center stage on Feb. 13 when the Philippine Sports¬writers Association (PSA) honors them with the prestigious Athlete of the Year award during its Annual Awards Night presented by Milo and San Miguel Corp. at One Esplanade in Pasay City.
This is the fourth time Donaire (2007, 2011, 2012) will be feted by the sportswriting fraternity with the same award, while it will be the first for both Nietes and Tabuena.
Donaire made a successful ring comeback in 2015 as he went down in weight and fought again as a super-bantamweight.
Fighting for the first time since losing to Nicholas Walters in their world featherweight title match, the ‘Filipino Flash’ pounded out a second round technical knockout win over William Prado in March, and then did the same against Anthony Settoul four months later.
But the 33-year-old Donaire saved his best for last after surviving tough Mexican Cesar Juarez in a war of attrition to win the vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) super-bantamweight title in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Nietes meanwhile began 2015 by officially becoming the longest reigning Filipino world champion after surpassing the long standing record of seven years and three months held by the late great Gabriel ‘Flash’ Elorde.
But the pride of Murcia, Negros Occidental and top fighter of Cebu-based ALA boxing promotions, showed he’s out to extend his reign as WBO light flyweight title holder.
The 33-year-old Nietes successfully defended his 108-lbs belt against Gilberto Parra, Francisco Rodriguez Jr., and Juan Alejo in a smashing 12-round unanimous decision during his US debut at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
And then, there’s Tabuena.
The young pro overcame Scott Barr of Australia by a single stroke to win his first ever Philippine Open championship.