Monumental triumphs marked their 2012 campaigns.
World Boxing Organization champion Nonito Donaire Jr., world women’s boxing gold medalist Josie Gabuco and softball World Series winner Team Manila carried Philippine sports to new heights while five-time UAAP basketball champion Ateneo pulled off a historic run in local basketball to earn the highest honor from the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA).
The two boxers and two teams will share the Athlete of the Year distinction when the country’s oldest media organization stages the PSA Annual Awards Night presented by Milo on March 16 at Manila Hotel.
Easing the heartache of a shocked nation, Donaire capped a banner year with a vicious knockout of legendary Mexican fighter Jorge Arce just a week after boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao was sent to dreamland by Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez with just a second left in the sixth round of their fourth fight.
Donaire’s third-round KO victory over Arce capped a busy four-fight schedule for the year by the super bantamweight titlist who also beat world champion Wilfredo Vasquez Jr., former IBF king Jeffrey Mathebula and former WBC titlist Toshiaki Noishioka.
Gabuco emerged as the first Filipina to capture a gold medal in the World Women’s Boxing Championship.
The 25-year-old Gabuco ruled the light flyweight division after a thrilling 8-7 triumph over world No. 8 and local favorite Xu Shiqi in the finals at Olympic Sports Center in Qinhuangdao, China.
Before her golden feat, Gabuco also upended world No. 1 Gnevanova Svetlana of Russia, 12-7, in the semifinals and World No. 3 Kim Clavel of Canada, 21-15, in the quarterfinals.
Team Manila, meanwhile, nearly skipped the World Series in Kalamazoo, Michigan, due to lack of funds.
After dropping their first two games, Team Manila remarkably strung up seven straight wins before routing California in the finals, 14-2, to cop the Big League Softball World Series crown.
Ateneo also made local basketball history as the longest reigning UAAP basketball team in the last 40 years by bagging a fifth straight championship.
Mentored by Norman Black, the Blue Eagles swept University of Santo Tomas in the finals to close in on the record seven straight titles won by University of the East starting in 1965.
PSA president Rey Bancod of Tempo said “the sheer impact and the way they dominated their respective fields made all four worthy” to share the spotlight in the event also supported by Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, the Philippine Sports Commission, Smart, Harbour Centre, Philippine Basketball Association, ICTSI, and LBC.
Donaire, nicknamed “Filipino Flash,” will get his third top athlete plum after sharing the award with pool star Dennis Orcollo last year and with swimming ace Miguel Molina in 2007.
Named Fighter of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and six other major boxing award-giving bodies, Donaire is the seventh three-time winner of the award after Pacquiao, trackster Lydia de Vega, bowlers Bong Coo and Paeng Nepomuceno, boxer Luisito Espinosa and pool legend Efren “Bata” Reyes.