In just a few days — on 15 November to be exact — one of Philippine sporting history’s greatest triumphs will celebrate its 20th anniversary.
Manny Pacquiao, who was picked to serve as a sacrificial lamb, scored a resounding 11th-round knockout of Marco Antonio Barrera at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
Yeah, it’s been that long.
But I can vividly remember even the days leading up to that eventful night when Pacquiao soared to stardom.
You see, Oscar De La Hoya had just put up Golden Boy Promotions and was planning to showcase his latest signee as a rousing introduction of his Los Angeles-based promotional outfit to the boxing bigwigs.
At that time, Pacquiao was still being handled by the grand old men of Philippine pugilism: Rod Nazario, Lito Mondejar and Moy Lainez.
In the United States, Pacquiao was being represented by Murad Muhammad of M&M Sports.
As one of just two Manila-based scribes at ringside, I was there to witness history unfold.
Pacquiao’s entourage then was minuscule.
Aside from Nazario, Mondejar and Lainez, also present were Gerry Garcia, a close associate of the trio, and a handful of US-based supporters.
Virgi Romano, then writing for Abante, was the other Filipino writer at ringside and she was with Jinkee at ringside.
That time, I was with another paper.
The betting line was outrageous and the atmosphere at the arena was hostile.
It was safe to say that among the over 10,000 spectators at the fight, members of Pacquiao’s entourage were the only Filipinos in attendance.
Although Pacquiao was becoming popular during that time, he was just fighting for the fourth time on American soil and the site made it hard for Filipinos living in the US to cheer for him at the Alamodome.
If it were held in California, the composition of the crowd would have been vastly different.
Anyway, there was an apparent attempt to deny Pacquiao victory because referee Laurence Cole — son of Texas boxing commission chief Dickie — ruled a knockout in Barrera’s favor despite the slo-mo replay showing that it was not so.
Then Cole didn’t call a knockdown when Pacquiao sent the Mexican banger down with a punch.
But in the end, there was no denying Pacquiao the landmark win as one of Barrera’s cornermen climbed the ring to signal that he had seen enough punishment dished out by the Filipino southpaw.
Given the magnitude of the fight and its implications, it was one of my most unforgettable moments on the beat.
Yeah, it’s been two decades.
Indeed, time flies.