By Marcus Bellinger
Following on from last week’s Pinoy Problems article we namecheck 10 boxers who have the potential to shape the future of the sport in the Philippines.
All fighters listed are below the age of 25 and are in no particular order.
Mark Magsayo 17-0 13 KOs.
Almost certainly the most recognisable name of this list for the majority, Magsayo has been blazing a trail in the featherweight division and is one of the most exciting young pugilists in the sport. His last 2 opponents, Daniel Diaz and Issa Nanpepeche were both blasted out in a round and although his handlers at the ALA Gym want to hold him back, this is becoming increasingly difficult given the way he is dismantling the provided opposition. The 22-year-old was involved in an up and down thriller against Chris Avalos in April 2016 which showed Magsayo had a huge heart but also that he could be drawn in to an unnecessary war at times. Magsayo should return before the end of the year, hopefully against a solid contender at 126 lb.
Romero Duno 15-1 13 KOs.
This young man came to the attention of many when he drilled the then undefeated Christian Gonzalez in March on a Golden Boy card in Los Angeles. The 2 round demolition earned Duno a contract with the US outfit and this past Saturday he won a unanimous 8 round decision over Juan Pablo Sanchez on the undercard of Jorge Linares’ world lightweight title defense against Luke Campbell. His only loss came on the road in Russia to Mikhail Alexeev back in May 2015 via an 8 round unanimous decision but this hasn’t harmed the 21-year-old’s career prospects at all. Whilst still needing some polishing Duno is a genuine puncher and with a powerhouse promotional team like Golden Boy backing him the future looks bright for this Filipino.
Jack Tepora 21-0 16 KOs.
Tepora has been well thought of for a while but until his 21st contest he hadn’t really been tested. The vast majority of his first 20 bouts came in his home area of Cebu where his promoters, Omega Pro Sports International aimed to establish a solid fan base for the gifted southpaw. Like most Filipinos Tepora came from humble beginnings and had around 100 amateur contests winning 2 golds and a bronze in national tournaments. By far his biggest test came on September 22 when he travelled to East London, South Africa to face puncher Lusanda Komanisi. Tepora scored a 1-punch knockout in round 2 to claim the vacant WBO International featherweight strap in the process and announce himself as one to watch for the future.
Jeo Santisima 14-2 12 KOs.
After being outpointed by Marlon Arcilla and Roniel Parcon within his first 4 fights, Santisima has strung together 12 consecutive victories including an impressive 6th round KO of Marco Demecillo in February 2016. Having begun boxing at 16, Santisima followed his elder brother to the ALA Gym and whilst his sibling packed up the sport, the 21-year-old persisted and has sparred with the likes of Mark Magsayo, Albert Pagara and even Nonito Donaire. Santisima has worked his way up the pecking order on the Pinoy Pride series and won a lopsided 10 round decision versus Master Suro in April and blitzed Goodluck Mrema in a round as the co-main of Julys ALA offering. The young super bantamweight is now ready for a step up and if it could be arranged a clash between him and Jack Tepora could potentially be something special.
Mark Anthony Barriga 6-0 1 KOs.
Barriga is one of the best amateur fighters to come from the Philippines in recent times having competed at 2 world championships and the London 2012 Olympics. He captured gold at the 2013 South East Asian Games and Bronze at the 2014 Asian Games both in the light flyweight division. The talented southpaw also took part in the World Series of Boxing where contests are over 5 rounds instead of the usual 3 in AIBA tournaments. As his record suggest since turning pro, Barriga hasn’t shown a huge amount of power but in terms of talent, counter punching ability and boxing acumen the 24-year-old has all 3 in spades. Barriga goes for his first title on 29 September in Beijing when he faces Samartlek Kokietgym for the WBO International strawweight crown.
Kevin Jake Cataraja 7-0 6 KOs.
So far Cataraja has proved to be a smart cookie both in and out the ring, combining studies with his boxing career. The 22-year-old was driven to succeed in life after coming through genuine poverty during his childhood where the next meal on the table wasn’t guaranteed and his father didn’t always have enough money to provide for the family. Having had around 300 amateur fights and won 4 golds at national level, Cataraja elected to pursue his studies and was awarded a scholarship in Cebu City. Cataraja would do his hour long run, attend class and then head to the ALA Gym where he would receive an education of a different variety, sparring with the likes of long time world champion Donnie Nietes. Having graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminology in March, Cataraja now has the knowledge that an alternative career path is firmly in his back pocket should his boxing career not pan out the way he hopes. He has passed every test given to him so far as a pro and has gone 8 rounds once and also stopped Ellias Nggenggo, who knocked out former world champion Merlito Sabillo.
Jessie Espinas 16-2 11 KOs.
Espinas has shown the ability to bounce back from a knockout defeat and is now in a crowded light flyweight mix for a world title tilt. Espinas took on unbeaten Christian Araneta but was stopped in 8 rounds in their September 2015 meeting. In January 2016 Espinas returned to stop Joey Camoy in 5 rounds in a real confidence booster. Camoy has since gone on to face Hekkie Budler and claim a victory over Melvin Jerusalem. Espinas’ next assignment came just a month later when he travelled to Thailand to square off against Paitharob Kokietgym. Paitharob was unbeaten in 32 fights at the time and given the huge difficulties in winning in Thailand Espinas looked up against it but the 24-year-old dropped his opponent 3 times on the way to an 8th round knockout in a quite brilliant display. The slick southpaw has won 5 straight since his loss to Araneta and a rematch between the 2 Pinoys was scheduled for July but was unfortunately cancelled.
Christian Araneta 14-0 12 KOs.
Araneta began boxing at the age of 14 but didn’t have a long amateur career as providing money for his family was a bigger priority. He didn’t turn professional with any fan fair and was unknown for most for quite a while and fought in small venues away from the limelight. The 22-year-old possesses plenty of power and has a really exciting style. The hard hitting southpaw, who is under the Omega Pro Sports International banner stopped the hopelessly overmatched Demsi Manufoe in a round in his last ring appearance in March. No doubt the biggest win of Araneta’s career came against Jessie Espinas and hopefully their rematch can be rearranged as both men have certainly grown since their first contest.
Reymart Gaballo 16-0 14 KOs.
Gaballo fought 5 times in 2016 and although the opposition was nothing special he dealt with them with a roofless efficiency. Gaballo stopped Yodpichai Sithsaithong in a round to claim a minor WBC super bantamweight belt in September 2016. With only around 30 amateur bouts, Gaballo has been moved carefully by Jim Claude Manangquil to compensate for his lack of experience. In recent times the 21-year-old has sparred with Shinsuke Yamanaka, Naoya Inoue and Guillermo Rigondeaux giving him an invaluable ring education. Gaballo has dynamite in his fists especially in the right hand but he is still roar and rounds against durable foes is required for him to progress. Unfortunately for whatever reason he is still to fight in 2017 but there is no doubt that this young super bantamweight has all the roar ingredients of a very exciting prospect.
Eumir Marcial middleweight.
Last but certainly not least we delve in to the amateurs for our final pick. At just the tender age of 21 Marcial has already achieved a lot having won back to back golds at the 2015 and 2017 South East Asian Games along with a silver at the 2015 Asian championships. He also was at the top of the podium in the 2013 Asian Youth Championships and the 2011 world junior championships. In the ring Marcial isn’t shy in engaging in a toe-to-toe battle and has the firepower to back it up. He can also box when necessary and has adapted well to the move up in weight. Hand issues have unfortunately blighted his career but if he can stay injury free then there is no reason why he can’t win more medals with the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta being the next big tournament. Long term the 2020 Tokyo Olympics should be within his sites and the prospect of him grabbing a medal aren’t out of the question.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features