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One Game at a Time

It all began under the ring

By Sev Sarmenta
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Before boxing man Rod Nazario passed away last month, he made sure that the 70-round card at the Filinvest Housing Complex in Muntinlupa City last weekend would push through.

It was one of his last boxing tasks, a venture with promoter Dante Almario and Mayor Aldrin San Pedro that would treat residents to a fight night that included Arniel Tinampay?s defense of his Philippine welterweight crown against Dan Nazareno Jr. as the main event.

Nazario did not see the card through but his presence was felt in every corner with colleagues speculating on how the veteran boxing man would have rated the boxers? performances.

The Muntinlupa slugfest brought to mind how Nazario was initiated into the sweet science. He once related to this reporter that his father took him to his first boxing match when he was six. It was unforgettable because Nazario?s father told him that night that if trouble broke out and the crowd became unruly, he should hide under the boxing ring.

True enough, a bad result enraged the crowd and chaos ensued. Nazario?s father found Rod safely hiding under the ring.

Nazario was hooked and his boxing baptism would lead to a whole range of roles from fight promoter, judge to manager. Eventual partners Lito Mondejar and Moy Lainez would cross paths with Nazario as they promoted their respective wards in arenas everywhere.

Lainez relates that their friendship was really sealed in 1970 when Mondejar and Lainez brought champion Erbito Salavarria to a title fight in Venezuela against Betulio Gonzales. Nazario was a judge in the fight.

Salavarria lost but as Filipinos traveling together, they formed a friendship that would lead to 40 years of boxing involvement.

The bond that also included former gutsy fighter Grego Garcia (whose son Gerry would join the team after his father passed away) saw them in the careers of Pedro Adigue, Tacy Macalos, Ben Villaflor, Luisito Espinosa and others.

Boxing was clearly in their blood as they touched every base of the sport as TV show producers, managers and promoters.

Nazario?s name will inevitably be linked to the Pacman story because it was he who took the risk of bringing the then raw Pacquiao to the United States in search of fights and a stab at fame. Their move and success paved the way for other Filipino fighters to get a slice of the spotlight in Las Vegas and other international fight venues.

On that night in Muntinlupa, far from the dazzling lights of Las Vegas, Nazario?s presence shone brightly as friends and colleagues recalled a looming figure of the fight game and a friend.

In the Muntinlupa crowd was Nazario?s son Rommel, who was brought to his first fight when he was seven.

He has now picked up from where his father left off, managing a training gym in Parañaque and a stable of hopefuls eyeing the big time.

He didn?t have to hide under the ring when he saw his first fight but his own boxing baptism would lead him to the same path his father took.

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