By Rene Bonsubre Jr – Professional sports in the Philippines came to a halt last March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The country went through various levels of quarantine and there seemed to be no end in sight.
Filipino boxing fans had to be content with watching a few of their countrymen – who managed to leave before the lockdown – secure fights in the United States. But the local fight scene was in a seven month long coma.
There was a lot of skepticism when the plan to restart boxing first surfaced. It would be a logistical nightmare and promoters would be spending more in terms of Covid tests for all the participants as well as making sure all recommended health and safety protocols would be followed.
But Omega Sports Promotions pushed through with their plan and it was a success. The card was relatively small, four bouts, and no titles at stake. The boxers trained in a bubble for two weeks and going into the weigh-in, the fighters, boxing officials and the support crew allowed inside the venue were tested for Covid-19. For two weeks everyone involved had to monitor and record their temperature twice a day. It was a tedious but necessary process. When fight day arrived, social distancing was still practiced inside the venue.
In the main bout, undefeated light flyweight prospect Mark Vicelles (12-0-1,6KO’s) of the Omega Boxing Gym scored a fourth round knockout of Junuel Lacar (8-6-3,6KO’s). Vicelles used quick one-two combinations to knock Lacar down in rounds two and three. Lacar still tried to make a fight out of it but was decked again in round four.
The referee reached the count of ten with Lacar still on all fours.
Peter Apolinar (12-1,8KO’s) got a hard fought unanimous verdict against Jetro Pabustan (30-8-6,9KO’s). The scorecards read 96-94 and 98-92 twice.
Christian Araneta scored two knockdowns against Richard Rosales but couldn’t finish him off and had to settle for a ten round unanimous decision. After an opening round of feinting and probing, it was bombs away for Araneta, who landed at will and dropped Rosales in rounds five and six.
But Araneta coasted in the remaining rounds but still got a wide victory- 100-88 and 99-89 twice.
Araneta is now 18-1,14KO’s while Rosales drops to 14-13-2,8KO’s. Araneta has not seen action since September of last year when he lost to Daniel Valladares in Mexico. Carlo Bacaro (6-0,5KO’s) beat up Jeffrey Stella (4-10-3,4KO’S) who decided not to answer the bell for round five.
One of the more unusual scenes during the show was the process of cleaning and disinfecting of the ring in between bouts. Trainers and ring officials wore masks and face shields and the card was closed to the public. A camera crew did record the bouts.
Since the pandemic started, the country has had more than 300,000 positive Covid-19 cases and almost 6,000 deaths. Millions of Filipinos lost their jobs. This may have been just a small card and the participants were not household names in the Philippines. But it gave hope to everyone who took part.
Philippine boxing is back.