Inability to host world title fights hurting our boxers

Donnie Nietes is one of a lucky handful of Filipino fighters who have defended their belts here. (NPPA Images)

The inability of Filipino promoters to get the kind of substantial financial support from big corporate sponsors and in turn the major television networks has hurt Filipino boxers either chasing world titles or defending them.

Two recent fights in Japan bear this out with the case of World Boxing Council flyweight champion Sonny Boy Jaro far more pronounced than that of WBC super flyweight challenger Sylvester Lopez, who lost by a unanimous twelve-round decision to Yota Sato who, according to Lopez' promoter Gabriel "Bebot" Elorde,  refused to engage and won a hit-and-run type of decision.

Although in fairness, Lopez' failure to solve the tactics of Sato and his trainer's inability to help modify their strategy during the fight were among the issues that contributed to the Filipino's loss.

However, the fairly recent history of Japanese boxers who face hard-hitting opponents tells us that they employ the fundamental tactic of using a jab to keep their opponents at bay and to pile up points and studiously avoid any toe-to-toe engagement.

Jaro, who was making the first defense of the title he won in spectacular fashion against longtime world champion and Thai hero Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, made it clear before his title defense against Hiroyuki Igaraship that the only way to assure victory was to knock the Japanese challenger out.

Conventional wisdom pointed out that otherwise, the hometown fighter would have a definite edge when it goes to the scorecards as it did in the Igarashi fight.

Without a doubt Jaro connected with the bigger and more telling punches, had Igarashi in trouble in the 9th round and opened up a cut above the challenger's eyebrow in the 11th. But despite his desperate effort to score a knockout, Igarashi proved to be an elusive target and in fact dropped Jaro in the final round although Mexican referee Gelasio Perez correctly ruled it as a slip.

The corner of Jaro, led by former boxer now turned trainer and promoter Aljoe Jaro, sensed that the failure to score a knockout would deny them victory, as it eventually did.

The judges' scorecards clearly manifested the advantage of a hometown setting even as it once again raised the subjective issue of how judges score fights and whether the fighter who connects with the harder, more telling blows such as Jaro should prevail over a pitter-patter puncher like Igarashi, who finds the mark more frequently but inflicts no damage.

California judge David Mendoza scored the fight for Igarashi 116-112 while South Korean judge Kyung Ha-Sin had the Japanese winning 115-113.

However, Texas judge Luis Escalona saw Jaro winning comfortably 116-112 which underscored an eight-point swing between Escalona's scorecard and that of Mendoza.

The obvious question is, why do such wide discrepancies occur in fights? Or did the hospitality of the Japanese which has been turned into an art form, make the difference?

In fairness to the Japanese we can only guess, just as the whole world struggled to come to terms with the split decision victory of Timothy Bradley over "Fighter of the Decade" Manny Pacquiao.

Most observers believe that if the title fight of Sonny Boy Jaro was held in the Philippines or even in a neutral country, the Filipino would have retained his title.

The question that immediately surfaces is how much longer must our financial inability, or shall we say unwillingness, cost us world titles in a sport where we are perfectly capable of being a dominating force.

Japan has no such problems. The TV networks compete for the broadcast rights and sponsors cover the costs of staging world title fights, in the process helping promoters to offer enticing purses for foreign  boxers to risk the possibility of a hometown decision by fighting in Japan.

But, the situation is streets ahead of what happens in Thailand on a regular basis where Filipino boxers are at the mercy of Thai promoters who very often get fringe fighters to face dominating Thai opponents and ensure victory at almost any cost.

This is why there is an on-going struggle between the respected ALA Promotions under its president Michael Aldeguer and Khun Songchai Ratanasuban's OneSongchai Promotions, the biggest MuayThai and boxing promoter in Thailand.

His daughter Pariyakorn is currently spearheading the negotiations with Aldeguer. It's been clear from the outset that the Thais wanted the WBO bantamweight title fight between AJ "Bazooka" Banal, the no.1 ranked WBO bantamweight and no.2 ranked Pungluang Sor Singyu in Bangkok. They are hoping that their strong financial backing, which enabled them to offer Banal $110,000 to fight in Bangkok for the title vacated by Mexican warrior Jorge "Travieso" Arce, would prevail.

Otherwise we will be at the mercy of countries like Japan, Mexico and Thailand. And given the talent the Philippines possesses, that would indeed be a sad scenario.

Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.