It was a bittersweet moment for Philippines boxing fans on Oct. 10 as one of their heroes, Gerry Penalosa (55-8-2, 37 KOs), a former two-division world champion (super flyweight, bantamweight), beat Yodsaengkeng Kiatmungmee (12-3, 8 KOs) by fourth-round knockout and then promptly retired after the bout.
The 38-year-old Penalosa has been a boxing icon in his homeland since he made his pro debut 21 years ago. While Manny Pacquiao, who grew up idolizing Penalosa, is the undisputed king when it comes to Filipino boxers, it’ll be interesting to see who picks up the void left by Penalosa’s decision to hang up the gloves.
The torch could very well be carried by a couple of excellent Filipino pugilists: Nonito ‘The Filipino Flash’ Donaire Jr. and Rey ‘Boom Boom’ Bautista.
While Donaire and Bautista may already be household names in their homeland, they’re not in the rest of the world -- at least not yet. There may also be a few Filipino fighters with better records than this pair, but Bautista and Donaire have quite a bit more experience on the world stage when it comes to fighting quality opposition.
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While it’s unlikely they’ll ever achieve the level of adulation Pacquiao receives, they’re both very good boxers and steadily improving all the time.
Actually, the 27-year-old Donaire from Talibon, Bohol, may already be known by serious boxing fans. He’s made a pretty good name for himself by winning his pro debut by a first-round knockout in February of 2001 in California and then losing a five-round unanimous decision to Rosendo Sanchez just three weeks later. But he hasn’t looked back since then, reeling off 23 straight wins (no losses) in nine years.
Many fans thought he hit his peak back in July of 2007 when he shocked the boxing world by knocking out the seemingly-invincible IBF and IBO Flyweight Champion Vic Darchinyan in the fifth round. Donaire had won the NABF Super Flyweight title a year earlier, but the fight against Darchinyan was a definite step up in class.
He defended the title three times, most notably a fourth-round TKO over previously unbeaten Raul Marquez (24-0) in April of 2009 and then won the interim WBA Super Flyweight Title four months later with a 12-round unanimous decision over Rafael Concepcion. He’s won two fights by knockout since then and is set to take on former WBA bantamweight champ Volodymyr Sydorenko (22-2-2, 7 KOs)in California on Dec. 4 and then Fernando Montiel (43-2-2, 37 KOs)for the WBC and WBO Bantamweight Titles next February.
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At 5-foot-7, Donaire is an excellent boxer-puncher, with speed, great footwork, defense and ring generalship and has surprised many boxing followers with his power. He’s an orthodox fighter, but likes to turn southpaw on occasion and is ranked by Ring Magazine as the fourth-best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. However, while nobody doubts his skills, he’s come in for some criticism lately for not taking on any elite fighters since Darchinyan. A lot of questions will be answered when Donaire moves up to bantamweight and takes on Montiel. If successful, he could carry the hopes of Filipino fans when Pacquiao decides to call it a day.
Bautista was born in Candijay, Bohol 24 years ago and turned pro just before his 17th birthday. Since then he’s built up an impressive 28-2 record with 21 knockouts. Throughout his career he’s won the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight Title and the WBO Inter-Continental Super Bantamweight Title. However, when he stepped in the ring in his first world-title shot with WBO Super Bantamweight Champion Daniel Ponce de Leon in 2007, he wasn’t able to handle the jump in class and was knocked out in the first round. He also lost in November of 2008 as he dropped an eight-round unanimous decision against Heriberto Ruiz.
He rebounded admirably and won the interim WBC International featherweight title by a seventh-round TKO over Marangin Marbun in October of 2009 and has won his last two fights since then by knockout. Bautista is scheduled to take on Hector Julio Avila (47-5, 42 KOs) for the vacant IBF Inter-Continental featherweight title on Oct. 30 in the Philippines.
Bautista has fought in the bantamweight, super-bantamweight, and featherweight divisions since turning pro and he’s been pretty successful in each one. He has pretty good power and is a decent boxer, He needs to work on his defense, but at 24, the future looks bright for him and Filipino boxing.
Bautista and Donaire's countryman Pacquiao will be taking on Antonio Margarito in Texas on Nov. 13. Betcris has the odds of a Pacquiao win at -650 and a Margarito victory at +475.