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‘We are the only ones using the gym and I can’t help but express my gratitude to Anson’

On a recent trip to Baguio, I got a glimpse of the training facility that Manny Pacquiao utilized a few times while revving up for some of his biggest fights in the United States more than a decade ago.

The Shape Up Boxing gym, located inside the Cooyeesan Shopping Mall, still stands to this day.

In fact, it hasn’t changed.

The training center, which has a separate area for professional fighters and fitness freaks, is currently being used by two-belt world super-bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales, who is bracing for a huge showdown with Naoya Inoue on 26 December in Tokyo.

Tapales has been using the gym, reporting for training six times a day, the last month or so.

JC Mananquil, who promotes Tapales, can’t help but rave about the willingness of the property’s owner — businessman cum former boxing manager Anson Tiu Co — to let Tapales set up camp there.

“We are the only ones using the gym and I can’t help but express my gratitude to Anson,” Mananquil said.

“Training camp’s terrific and we can’t ask for more,” Mananquil added, whose enthusiasm is shared by all members of his team.

A wooden panel painted with the Philippine flag is still there and signatures of the personages who once upon a time spent long hours there — the great Pacquiao, trainer Freddie Roach and strength coach Alex Ariza — are still very much visible.

Those revered markings are a testament to what the little-known gym did to the Hall of Fame career of Pacquiao.

While it may pale in comparison to the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood and the L&M Gym in Quiapo, the Shape Up Boxing of Co is not far behind.

It deserves to be awarded a prominent marker given its vital role in helping Pacquiao win a few of his biggest ring battles.

If Tapales upsets Inoue, I would immediately hop on a bus and do it myself.

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