(This is my Fair Play column for SunStar Cebu’s Dec. 12 edition)
Having covered quite a few boxing press conferences, I’ve always known when boxers are trying hard to sell themselves and their fight. Some fall flat atrociously, like the guy who promised to take a local boxer to boxing school and ended up back-pedalling most of the match.
In the macho world of boxing, saying outrageous statements gets you attention, but a light moment between two Pinoy world champions showed that you don’t have to talk trash, to sell your fight. You don’t have to hurl insults to get attention.
Being nice is well, nice.
Reymart Gaballo, the WBC interim bantamweight champion who will face Donaire for the WBC bantam belt, was struggling to explain that though his trainers mimicked Donaire’s patented left-hook, it wasn’t the only arsenal in his bag of weapons.
Though Gaballo has been training in the US for quite a while now, his grasp of the language is fleeting. He was struggling, saying “uhm” when he couldn’t express his thoughts and snapping his fingers, obviously trying to look for the right words.
Snapping his fingers, Gaballo kept struggling and finally muttered “What do you call this…”
Donaire looked at him, and tried to help him and asked, “Ilabay?” since he got what Gaballo was trying to say.
Gaballo, still struggling, tried to continue talking in English when Donaire finally urged him, “Ibisaya, ibisaya.”
So Gaballo told Donaire and the Filipino Flash whose dad also spent time in Polomolok, Gaballo’s hometown, told the rest of the media that it’s not only his left hook he should look out for.
The novel exchange, which was followed by a fist bump between the two laughing fighters, impressed everyone and had the host of the press con saying, “That’s the level of respect they have for each other.”
It’s also a welcome change.
The last time a video of a Pinoy champion struggling with English went viral was when Johnriel Casimero taunted Japanese champion Naoya Inoue. Before the Gaballo fight, Donaire and Casimero also got into a heated exchange, one that went way, way below belt because of Casimero’s insult of Donaire’s wife. Casimero has since apologized but the damage was done and their fight was called off.
I’ve been playing that exchange between Donaire and Gaballo numerous times because frankly, it is a feel-good moment. And I hope other Pinoy boxers learn from this.
They don’t have to sell a drama.
Curiously enough, hours after the Donaire-Gaballo exchange went viral, Pinoy fans learned of a terrible news, Casimero lost his title after failing to show up for the weigh-in for his fight against Paul Butler due to a stomach virus according to his camp.
It’s the second time Casimero has lost a title before the actual fight as he was also stripped of the IBF junior flyweight belt after failing to make the weight in his 2014 defense against Mauricio Fuentes in Cebu in 2014.
Casimero managed to bounce back after that, but it took him five years to win another title. At 32, I hope it won’t take him that long to be back at the top.