Along a narrow street leading to the Mandaluyong City College (MCC) gymnasium, two kids were playfully boxing, while another was seriously engaging himself with an imaginary foe, punching the air with all his might.
That was Sunday night, for they knew Filipino ring icon Manny Pacquiao was in the neighborhood and they just couldn’t help but mimic his moves.
Pacquiao’s presence alone rejuvenates awareness for his sport everywhere he goes, which the eight-division world champion intends to bring where the revived Blow by Blow caravan will roll.
“Blow by Blow will go to the barangays, to the cities and reach out and give an opportunity to all boxers who aspire to become a Manny Pacquiao,’’ Pacquiao told a thrilled Sunday crowd that filled the MCC gym, all of them eager to see the nation’s most revered boxer of all time.
Now retired with tons of accomplishments in and outside the ring, Pacquiao brought everybody to a trip down memory lane when he talked of the scrawny 16-year-old from General Santos City that began a storied professional career at Blow by Blow hosted by Mandaluyong City.
“This is where I became known,’’ said Pacquiao, profusely thanking his benefactor, former Mandaluyong City Mayor Benjamin Abalos Sr., at a time when he was still a nobody in the sport.
“I owe them (Abalos family) a debt of gratitude that I will never forget for as long as I live. Because of them, I was able to achieve success, help my parents and family, give honor to our country and provide inspiration to every Filipino,’’ added Pacquiao, now the promoter of the famed boxing program with Abalos.
From the klieg lights of Blow by Blow in the mid-90s, Pacquiao rose to become a global force in the sport over the next two decades.
Show’s second wind
He won a senatorial seat later on before running for Philippine president early this year, but lost.
Pacquiao is the crowning glory of Blow by Blow, which debuted in 1994 featuring up-and-coming boxing prospects before folding up in 1999.
Through Pacquiao’s efforts, the show returned in 2015 only to be stored back into the freezer in just over two years.
Sunday night’s revival paraded several Filipino boxers that could probably carve their names in the international scene with former youth amateur standout Criztian Pitt Laurente claiming the vacant Philippine Boxing Federation super-featherweight crown.
JR Magboo was gone in just 25 seconds of the first round after Laurente saw an opening and struck him with a lightning-quick right straight, as referee Danrex Tapdasan counted him out.
So far, the 22-year-old Laurente hasn’t dropped a match, winning all of his 11 fights, seven by way of knockout.
“I am truly excited to be in the presence of these ambitious young fighters. My decision to revive Blow by Blow is for the long run and I hope the public will join me in the search for the next Filipino boxing hero,’’ said the 43-year-old Pacquiao.
There was a touch of nostalgia in the Blow by Blow comeback with the return of original ring announcer Bobby Mondejar. Helping out Pacquiao in managing the logistics of putting up fights is two-time world champion Gerry Peñalosa with the backing of seasoned matchmaker Art Monis.
Next month’s Blow by Blow has been penciled in Pacquiao’s hometown of General Santos City and will go back to Mandaluyong City in January. The fights will be shown every week over Cignal’s One Sports channel.
“I encourage our kids to go into sports, especially in boxing because boxing is the best,’’ said Pacquiao.
Meanwhile, outside the MCC as the curtains fell on Blow by Blow’s revival, there were a lot more kids shadow-boxing, throwing punches while muttering the name of Pacquiao.
Truly, there’s no one else that could inspire future greats like the greatest himself. INQ
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