Although we often talk about how exciting the Japanese boxing scene is for emerging talent that doesn't mean they are the only traditional Asian boxing country with a lot of exciting and promising talent. Another such nation is the Philippines, which is rife with excellent emerging talent and exciting hopefuls. One such fighter is 21 year old boxer-puncher Richard Bulacan (8-0, 6), who looks like one of the best hidden gems in the country.
Unlike many Filipino fighters it's rather easy to see what Bulacan did in the amateurs, at least to some extent. Whilst it might incomplete he has a reported 37-8 record in the unpaid ranks after first making a mark way back in 2012, in a School Boys tournament. As time went on he fought in the Juniors and Youth divisions and even took a gold at the Philippines Youth Games in 2016. Although his record wasn't stellar it is worth noting that he fought some top Filipino talent during his amateur stint, including Criztian Pitt Laurente, Jerven Mama and Dave Apolinario.
Despite being a good amateur Bulacan seemed to be more suited to the professional style of boxing than the amateur style. As a result he changed codes very young and made his professional debut back in March 2017, 4 days before his 18th birthday. On debut he took just 32 seconds to get rid of fellow Filipino Frejun Dela Cruz. Whilst Dela Cruz was no world beater he had taken Mike Plania into the 6th round and Bulacan had done a better job on him than Reymart Gaballo in 2015.
Just 3 months after his debut Bulacan returned to the ring and stopped Carlito Antaran in round 2. It was clear Bulacan needed a better level of opponent and in September 2017 he got a better test, as he went up against Michael Javier, then boasting an 8-1 (7) record, in an 8 rounder. Javier managed to see out the early storm from Bulacan but didn't have the toughness to survive the schedule with the emerging prospect, who stopped Javier in the 5th round.
Having taken his first 3 opponents out in a combined 8 rounds, in less than 6 months, it was clear Bulacan could punch. He still had a lot of questions to answer though, and thankfully he got the chance to answer some of those just weeks after the Javier bout. Fighting against Rimon Rama, then 6-0-1 (4) himself, Bulacan got the chance to show there was a lot more than just power to his game as he took an 8 round decision over Rama. He dropped Rama on route to his victory and showed he had the stamina to go 8 rounds.
Having checked off the "gone 8 rounds" tick box Bulacan then moved up again, taking on southpaw Vergel Deguma in January 2018 in a 10 round bout. For the first time we saw Bulacan being genuinely tested, with Deguma not going away. In fact not only did Deguma show his toughness, taking Bulacan the 10 round schedule, but he took rounds off Bulacan, and ran the power punching youngster to a close and competitive decision. Bulacan took the win, but also got given the chance to learn. He had proven he could go 10 rounds, but the reality was that he had also had a lesson taught to him, and that he would have to improve if he was going to be a big star. This bout wasn't just notable for the fact Bulacan was tested but also the fact he was giving away quite a bit of weight to Deguma, making it easier to take Bulacan's shots.
To his credit Bulacan's team seemed to realise their was work to do and he spent more than 7 months out of the ring before moving up in weight and stopping Rogen Flores inside a round.
The win over Flores was followed by more than a year out of action before Bulacan returned to the ring in September 2019.
On his return Bulacan got a chance to rematch Vergel Deguma, the man who had given him his toughest bout to date. Having gone 10 rounds in their first bout this was a chance to see if the work Bulacan's team had done had improved their charge. By now it seemed like Bulacan was filling into his frame, and he had put on 8lbs since their first bout, moving up from essentially being a Bantamweight to a Super Featherweight. Despite Deguma having moments Bulacan boxed well and closed the show in round 5, putting their rivalry to bed.
In his only bout since the Deguma rematch Bulacan faced off with Anthony Sabalde and impressed by stopping Sabalde, who retired at the end of round 5. The performance from Bulacan was a strange one at times, giving up his height and reach to fight off the ropes at times early on, but he looked calm and relaxed whilst picking good punches against Sabalde. The stoppage was certainly anti-climactic, but it was clear that Bulacan's body shots were taking their toll on Sabalde, who had no answer for the youngster's left hook to the body.
Although Bulacan is still very much a youngster, and really a work in progress, he's someone worthy of attention, and can clearly box. We're not sure if he's yet found his ideal weight, and he's still a young kid with a long and lanky frame, but he's looking stronger every time we see him. Currently fighting between Featherweight and Super Featherweight we wouldn't be surprised to see him really hitting his stride at Lightweight or Light Welterweight down the line.
It might be a few years before Bulacan is making a mark on the Oriental title picture, be we do expect to see him there sooner, rather that later. He's a genuine talent, who just needs polishing, and pushing, to get the best from him. At 21 years old he has time on his side, and we really hope his team let him mature into his frame before matching him too tough. For the next 12 months good domestic opponents should suffice in getting him rounds, before looking to international opponents to test him and give him new looks ask new questions of him.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces