By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Philippine boxing will start the new year, 2020 on a lower starting balance than it did in the year about to end.
At the start of 2019, the country had seven world champions counting the two then reigning interim titleholders.
They included WBA welterweight regular titlist Manny Pacquiao who won the title the previous July over Lucas Matthyse, WBO minimumweight champion Vic Saludar who beat Ryuya Takayama also in July, IBF super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas, WBO super flyweight champion Donnie Nietes who won the title vacated by Naoya Inoue over Kazuto Ioka the previous November and WBA bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire who won the title by huge TKO upset of Ryan Burnett in the UK also the previous November.
The reigning interim champions then were Reymart Gaballo and Jhack Tepora, both with the WBA in the bantamweight and featherweight division, respectively. Gaballo won his over Stephon Young of the US in March 2018 and Tepora won his over Mexican Edivaldo Ortega in the Pacquiao-Matthysse undercard in July 2018.
Entering the new year, we are down to just four world champions, namely: WBA welterweight super champion Manny Pacquiao, IBF super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas, IBF minimumweight champion Pedro Taduran and WBO bantamweight champion Johnriel Casimero.
At the start of 2019, Nietes was the longest continuously reigning Filipino world champion with titles won in four weight classes, the last he won, the WBO super flyweight over Kazuto Ioka in November 2018 in Macau.
But Nietes preferred to vacate his WBO super flyweight title than fight Aston Palicte again in its defense, believing as many did that he beat Palicte in their first fight for the same title vacated by Inoue which ended in a draw.
WBO ordered Ioka and Palicte to fight for the title left by Nietes which was won by Ioka by TKO in Japan. Hence our loss became Japan’s gain in this weight class.
Unable to get the marquee names in the division to fight him, Nietes did not see action for the whole of 2019. Due to his extended inactivity, Nietes also lost his Ring pound for pound ranking.
Ironically, Nietes was in Japan recently for the WBO Convention where he petitioned that he be restored to the WBO ranking for the opportunity to fight again for the same title he eschewed! He remains unranked as of the latest WBO listing although he is in the rating of two other major boxing bodies.
Gaballo lost his status as WBA bantamweight interim titlist due to inactivity (read: failure to make a single title defense, hence not adding to the WBA coffers in term of sanction fees). As a consolation, he remains in the WBA ratings.
Tepora lost his WBA interim featherweight title at the weight scales when he failed to make the limit in a supposed title eliminator fight against Hugo Ruiz underneath the Pacquiao vs Thurman main event bout last July. Tepora was replaced by a fighter whom Ruiz impressively disposed off, prompting then WBA super featherweight champion Tank Davis to chose him as his next title challenger ( of course, Davis blew Ruiz out in no time).
Compounding Tepora’s woes, he was knocked out in the very first round recently by Oscar Escandon who was supposedly on a career low after losing his previous four bouts. He may lose his world ranking after earlier struggling against an ordinary Carlos Gallegos and this shocking loss to the jaded Escandon.
Vic Saludar became the first Pinoy fighter to lose his world title when he journeyed all the way to Puerto Rico for a title defense and dropped a unanimous decision verdict to the local boy, Wilfredo Mendez last July.
Saludar, in fairness, had earlier made a successful title outpointing his challenger Masataka Taniguchi in Japan.
Falling also was Nonito Donaire who after making a successful title defense by knockout over Stephon Young in the US, lost a fighting decision against Naoya Inoue in the WBSS finals and WBA-IBF and Ring Magazine bantamweight unification in Saitama, Japan last November.
Pinoys challenging for the world titles abroad also were met with vaying results, from close shaves to total disasters.
In Thailand, ArAr Andales was denied of a TKO win when the referee ruled that the cut he inflicted on WBC minimumweight champion Thamanoon Miyontrong’s eyelid was due to accidental headbutt and not legal punch allowing the Thai to keep his title by technical decision. Andales through the GAB protested the result of the match but it got nowhere.
Edward Heno managed to floor Mexican champion Elwin Soto in their WBO light glyweight title fight held in Indio, California last October but failed to capitalize and lost by close decision.
Jonathan Taconing fell in yet another title crack as did Randy Petalcorin against WBC light flyweight champion Kenshiro Teraji in Japan, both losing by knockout.
Juan Martin Elorde also failed dismally in his first world title try, losing by knockout to sensational Mexican WBO super bantamweight champion Emmanuel Navarette.
Marlon Tapales failed to become world champion again losing by TKO to the veteran ex titlist Ryosuke Iwasa in their bout for the IBF interim super bantamweight title recently.
Also falling in world title eliminator was Christian Araneta who dropped a decision verdict to Mexico’s Daniel Valledares.
A big loser likewise during the year was lightweight Romero Duno who was knocked out in the first round by Golden Boy prospect Ryan Garcia.
What we lost in quantity, we more than made up with quality.
The biggest gains of the year were registered by Pacquiao, Ancajas and Casimero.
Pacquiao after successfully defending his WBA regular title by eaay decision win over Adrien Broner in January improved his standing by winning the super title in an epic battle against erstwhile undefeated Keith Thurman in July. That put him back in the Ring Magazine pound for pound list and among the top three welterweight fighters in the world.
Due to these latest exploits, Pacquiao remains one of the highest paid athletes in the world and the most sought after opponent in the welterweight class with the likes of Errol Spence and Terrence Crawford waiting on the line.
He was also nominated for the Fighter of the Year and his fight versus Thurman listed as Fight of the Year candidate by the Ring Magazine.
Pacquiao is also a strong candidate for an unprecedented second straight Fighter of the Decade award.
Ancajas meanwhile became one of the longest reigning world champions currently when he made two overseas successful defenses of his title against Ryoichi Funai of Japan and Miguel Gonzales both ending in knockout victory for the Filipino.
With his continuing string of title victories, Top Rank has announced that Ancajas will be fighting the other big names in his division in the coming new year.
Also making big splash in 2019 was Casimero who fought four times during the year and won all of them by knockout, winning and defending the interim WBO bantamweight title and eventually gaining the WBO regular championship in the process.
Like Pacquiao against Thurman, Casimero claimed a very prominent scalp in South Africa’s Zolani Tete whom he kayoed inside three rounds in their high profile main event bout in the UK. He is being considered as next possible opponent for Monster Inoue early next year.
Despite losing his world title, Nonito Donaire remains a name and power to be reckoned with as the WBC named him as mandatory to champion Nourdine Oubali of France. There have also been clamors for a rematch with Inoue in the US.
Bicol-born Pedro General Taduran instantly became a household name when he won the vacant IBF minimumweight title against the highly favored countryman Samuel Salva whom he forced to quit after five rounds of their 12 round title bout held at the San Andres gym in Manila.
Pacquiao has expressed his interest to take Taduran under the wings of his MP Promotions.
Also making progress during the year are super featherweight Joe Noynay who has remained undefeated in Japan, JayR Raquinel and Lito Dante who kept their OPBF titles, Giemel Magramo, Jayson Mama, Michael Dasmarinas, Mark Magsayo and Albert Pagara who are all rated highly in their respective divisions as of the latest world ranking. Fast rising Ifugao warrior Carl Jammes Martin has also remained undefeated.