Defeat, more than victory, defined what otherwise had been a momentous year in Philippine sports. Funny, but it continues to haunt us as we close a 365-day chapter in local sports. We continue to ask ourselves: “How could that happen?”
The nation’s biggest athletic hero, who we adore for keeping the country firmly in the international sporting firmament for a full decade, tasted defeat not once but twice.
For sure, there were other achievements that somehow cushioned the sad, sad year in the ring of boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao.
Nine more of 2012’s biggest stories, as culled in a poll among the Inquirer Sports’ staff, join the Pacquiao copy in the year’s Top 10.
The honorable mentions: The gold-medal victory in the world taekwondo poomsae championships in Colombia of 15-year-old Mikaela Calamba; the rare horse racing double by Hagdang Bato in scoring a Triple Crown sweep and topping the Presidential Gold Cup; Johnny Arcilla’s unprecedented seventh PCA Open singles title; the victory in the POC elections of the ticket of incumbent president Jose Cojuangco Jr.; the second successive Philippine Cup championship nailed by the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters in the PBA; and the triumph of Mark Galedo in the gruelling Ronda Pilipinas cycling marathon, in that order.
In this second of a two-part series, we present the top five stories, according to how we see their impact on the nation’s sporting consciousness, in reverse order.
In the previous installment of this yearender, we already provided you the bottom half of the list: Rain or Shine’s breakthrough PBA title, Franki Miñoza’s Japan Senior Open victory, San Beda’s NCAA championship, the country’s zero output in the London Olympics and the continued rise of the Philippine Azkals, capped by their semifinal stint in the AFF Suzuki Cup.
Ateneo showed what a dynasty looks like as the Blue Eagles captured a fifth straight UAAP men’s basketball championship.
Steered by American coach Norman Black, Ateneo emerged as the most dominant team in the league in the last 40 years since University of the East reigned for seven seasons starting in 1965.
But Ateneo had to deal with a gritty University of Santo Tomas in the title series, which the Blue Eagles swept, 2-0, by just an average of four points.
Finals MVP Nico Salva, Kiefer Ravena and Greg Slaughter powered the Blue Eagles, who kept their focus amid some off-court drama.
Ateneo’s top patron Manny V. Pangilinan severed ties with his alma mater, which prompted Black to offer his resignation in the crucial stretch of the season.
Black, too, had a heated word war with UST coach Pido Jarencio that spiced up the rivalry in the title series.
But the animosities all led to reconciliation, leaving the Blue Eagles to just enjoy their historic conquest. Jasmine W. Payo
Just when his stamina seems to be on the wane, Brian Viloria struck back hard this year.
Enjoying a second wind, Viloria knocked out Omar Niño Romero and Hernan “Tyson” Marquez in succession to solidify his hold of the world flyweight crown and put himself in contention for Fighter of the Year.
That Viloria stopped Romero in the ninth round at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig and Marquez in the 10th round in Los Angeles, California, were testaments to the new-found staying power of the “Hawaiian Punch.”
More than two years ago, Viloria appeared headed for oblivion as he ran out of gas and got stopped by Carlos Tamara in the 12th round.
But with wife Erica, a nurse, by his side, Viloria altered his diet and is now reaping the dividends. Looking younger, better and stronger at 32. Roy Luarca
In a hoop-crazy country, no victory can send people in a delirious celebration than one fashioned on a basketball court.
And when that victory is scored against an American team, the din is amplified.
A gut-wrenching 76-75 victory by the country’s national team, the Smart Gilas Pilipinas, over Team USA in the William Jones Cup became one of the Philippines’ golden moment in basketball in the international arena.
The Nationals grabbed that victory from the crushing jaws of a 13-point deficit allowed Smart Gilas to bring home the Jones Cup for the first time since 1998.
So significant was the victory that it turned the game’s biggest hero—ironically the smallest guy in the court—into a valuable commodity back home.
After quarterbacking the team to the pulsating win, LA Tenorio became part of a huge trade that saw him jump from Alaska to Barangay Ginebra.
Tenorio’s heroics made him an instant hit among basketball fans, his name immediately turning into a trending topic in social media. Francis T. J. Ochoa
Vindication goes by the name of Nonito Donaire Jr.
Losses on international fronts by beloved icon Manny Pacquiao and the rising Philippine Azkals left Philippine sports fans looking to Donaire for salvation.
And “The Filipino Flash” responded, capping a busy year with a massive knockout victory over Jorge Arce of Mexico using his patented left hook, which ended the battle for the WBO super bantamweight crown in the third round.
Donaire’s earlier victims in order were former world champion Wilfredo Vasquez Jr., former IBF titlist Jeffrey Mathebula and former WBC king Toshiaki Noishioka, who later announced his retirement.
The battle-ravaged Arce, a four-division world champion, also called it quits right after failing the predominantly Latino crowd at Toyota Center in Houston.
Donaire’s victory was the perfect highlight to end the year. It eased the pain of Manny Pacquiao’s defeat to nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez and also assured fight fans that the Philippines will still have a big-named star in the international scene even if the Pacman decides to call it quits.
Riding an 11-year, 30-bout win skein, Donaire has been named Fighter of the Year by both ESPN and BoxingScene.com and is also the pacesetter in the Boxing Writers Association of America FOTY derby. Roy Luarca
Manny Pacquiao sprawled on the canvas, face first. Motionless and senseless.
Juan Manuel Marquez atop the first rope on the other corner, arms raised in triumph.
This is the lingering image that shook Philippine sports and the boxing world last year.
All it took was a dynamite right thrown by the Mexican that exploded on Pacquiao’s chin coming in with one second to go in the sixth round to shatter the eight-division world champion’s mythical ring rampage on Dec. 8.
Its impact was far greater than the absurd loss Pacquiao suffered against Timothy Bradley, who got help from two “blind” judges, in June.
It was the sorriest of defeats for PH sports, especially since the ring icon had taken control of the match after a falling in a surprise third-round knockdown.
Pacquiao came back with a vengeance, scoring his own knockdown and then pummeling his Mexican foe to the point that it didn’t look like Marquez had more than a few more rounds left in him.
But then, a moment of carelessness
With the seconds burning away in the sixth, Pacquiao blazed his way inside Marquez’s defense only to walk straight into a lights-out right.
“I got overconfident,” said Pacquiao after the fight.
But don’t count out the country’s fallen hero just yet.
Upon his arrival here, Pacquiao promised to come back and rise again from the humiliation dealt him by Marquez.
Chances are, he’ll succeed if he focuses solely on boxing.
But if Pacquiao continues to spread himself too thin, the downward spiral may be irreversible. Roy Luarca