MOST weekend fight cards here in the country are standard issue: Five four-rounders, a couple of six-round duels, then the supporting events which are usually eight-round tussles and then the main event.
If there’s a championship at stake, then fight fans will have at least one 12-round affair. And of course, the dramatis personae are all males with different career paths and boxing tales to tell.
But on Saturday night at San Dionisio Multi-Purpose Gym in Parañaque, fight fans were treated to a slightly different championship.
Two female boxers climbed the ring to dispute the Philippine female minimumweight title. It was a special feature inserted by promoter Anson Tiu Co in a 78-round card done in tandem with the In This Corner TV boxing show.
Co is one of those dedicated boxing hobbyists who dive in with gusto to see their passions play out. The youthful promoter’s turf is Baguio City where his Shape Up Boxing Promotions is based.
Co is of course known as the hotelier who created the gym in the summer capital where Manny Pacquiao trains for his world title bouts.
The predominantly male audience craned their necks to get a glimpse of this seemingly novel idea. But the truth is, female professional boxing is already making inroads around the world.
Fil-American Anna “Hurricane” Julaton is probably the first of Filipina lineage to make a mark in the sport. In the Philippines today, insiders declare that there are some 20 active professional female boxers.
The title bout featured 25-year-old Carleans Rivas of Ana Rivas Boxing Stable of Angono, Rizal, against Jesebelle Pagaduan, 28, of Johnny Morris Gym of Valenzuela City. Rivas at 5-foot-3 enjoyed a three-inch edge in height against Pagaduan. Very often, an edge in height translates into a reach advantage that’s useful in unleashing snappy jabs and straights.
But Rivas was unable to use that edge. When the bell rang, the smaller Pagaduan was all over Rivas like a whirlwind, penetrating Rivas’ space quickly with a barrage of crisp hooks and crosses. Both fighters were undefeated, wanted the crown and to impress the audience and boxing experts who were more accustomed to male combatants.
It was Pagaduan who dictated the mood of the battle and Rivas could not get going under the pressure. And by the third round, referee Sammy Bernabe correctly stopped the fight as Rivas could no longer defend herself or throw a punch.
Pagaduan went home with a new belt and bragging rights as the new queen of her female boxing division.
After the fight, Pagaduan revealed to this reporter that it was her mixed martial arts-loving brothers that got her hooked into being passionate about the sport two years ago. And in a totally unexpected light, she says that “hindi naman ako pang beauty contest (I’m not cut out for beauty contests),” that’s why she picked up boxing.
She may not have the height for a run at a beauty title but she does have a winning smile that can disarm anyone. This alone makes her stand out in a sea of male boxing diehards who are just getting used to seeing women atop the ring.
How far will Philippine female boxing go? With hundreds of gyms offering boxing programs and more women discovering the health benefits the sport’s training regimen provides, more may try the sport as a profession. This isn’t even counting the countless more that may want to use boxing as a springboard out of poverty.