The sight of Manny Pacquiao getting knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez, and Nonito Donaire getting a beating from Guillermo Rigondeaux in their last fights are reels that no Filipino boxing fan would like to witness again and again.
In the last Marquez fight, Pacquiao got hit with good haymakers from the Mexican before eating the perfect right that sent the Filipino to dreamland.
In the Rigondeaux fight, Donaire refused to clinch his opponent even if the Cuban was doing that many times. Nor did Donaire hit the Cuban when the latter was initiating a clinch. Nor did Donaire run away even if he was in trouble, even if Rigondeaux was running away from the Filipino during some rounds.
So it really pains me on how those who call themselves “boxing writers” or “boxing fans” chastise Pacquiao and Donaire for losing their recent fights, because one thing was very obvious from the two Filipino pugs: they fought like real men.
And when I say “real men,” this also means Pacquiao and Donaire never resorting to cheating or foul tactics, which makes men rather than mice.
Hell, even Flash Elorde, Rolando Navarette, Luisito Espinosa, Dodie Boy and Gerry Peñalosa, Andy Ganigan, and Brian Viloria, just to name a few, were never accused of cheating or being dirty fighters.
Elorde was even a victim of dirty tactics when he fought Sandy Saddler for the world featherweight championship, and Marquez was caught stepping on the foot of Pacquiao a few times during their last two fights.
Then there is also one admirable facet that makes Filipino fighters admirable and vulnerable: they are willing to take a punch or a bunch of punches.
Filipino boxers willing to take punishment may also explain why we have yet to see a “pure boxer” from the country rise to greatness.
Even Donaire, considered to have a better skill level than Pacquiao, took his share of punches in his fights with Vic Darchinyan, Wilfredo Vasquez Jr., Jeffrey Mathebula, and Rigondeaux.
Before proceeding, let me explain that willingness to take a punch is different from the ability to take a punch. A fighter may have an “iron chin” but can still wilt under a barrage of punches. Just look at how Mike Tyson wilted under a barrage of punches from Evander Holyfield in their first fight, even if Tyson refused to go down.
Combine the fact that most Filipino boxers are willing to take punishment with their not having outstanding defense, then you have a recipe for disaster if things go wrong.
I have dissected many times the overall fighting style of the Filipino boxer, and my conclusion is they are somehow similar to Mexican boxers: Filipino boxers will trade punch for punch, or bunch for bunch, and that results to their getting hit a lot. To most Filipino fighters, the best defense is still offense.
Mexican boxers, to their credit, however, are more likely to fight with reckless abandon compared to other fighters.
While we have seen gifted fighters like Elorde, Pacquiao, Espinosa and Donaire, just to name a few, bring to the ring more speed, better ring generalship, and power, they still end up doing one thing – trying to land as many punches or overwhelm their opponents with their fists.
Those attributes also point to Filipino boxers having a high level of courage, even if the odds are stacked up against them. And they can sometimes pull off surprises, sometimes.
Take a look at Bernabe Con-cepcion’s losing effort against Juan Manuel Lopez for the world featherweight title on July 10, 2012, where the Filipino tried to match the bigger and stronger Puerto Rican punch-for-punch. While Concepcion was able to floor Lopez late in the first round after the Filipino got floored earlier in the first round, Concepcion went down twice in the second round to lose the fight.
Concepcion’s futile bid against Lopez reminds me of the gallant stand Bobby Berna made in his bid for the world super bantamweight crown against the feared Jaime Garza on June 15, 1983. Given only two weeks to prepare, Berna floored Garza once in the first round only to kiss the canvass twice in the second round. Garza was undefeated in 37 fights with more than 30 knockouts when he faced Berna.
While there are some technical fighters that have emerged from the ranks of Filipino fighters, particularly from the Peñalosa clan, most pugs from this country still prefer a style that throws out classic counterpunching and intelligent defense out of the window.
Those qualities don’t make Filipino fighters inferior compared to their counterparts in the international scene; rather these make Filipino pugs more attractive to the fans who do not pay to watch a chess match.
So there seems to be nothing very wrong with Filipino fighters after all.