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Manny Pacquiao

The dangers of boxing

January 26, 2010 11:20am

As a sportscaster learning the ropes, Vintage Sports gave me my first boxing commentating assignment in 1995 alongside the late Romy Kintanar.

It was an assignment like no other as it gave me a rude awakening on the dangers of boxing.
Brian Viloria being taken to the hospital after collapsing following his fight with Colombian Carlos Tamara last Jan. 23 at the Cuneta Astrodome. GMA NewsTV grab

In the main supporting bout of that fateful fightcard promoted in a basketball court in Sampaloc, a young fighter from General Santos City named Eugene Barutag faced a veteran journeyman in Randy Andagan of Biñan, Laguna.

Barutag's sad tale

The young Barutag, who joined a then 17-year-old Manny Pacquiao as a stowaway from GenSan, was winning the bout in the first four rounds and actually was close to knocking out the veteran Andagan. But faulty officiating by referee Nestor Olivetti robbed Barutag of an early stoppage.

As the fight progressed, Andagan got his second wind and turned the tables on Barutag, who at the end of a brutal eight-round battle, collapsed in his corner.

Chaos ensued as people atop the ring tried to revive the unconscious Barutag.

In the absence of a competent ring physician and a standby medical team, I ended up commandeering our service vehicle and brought the fallen Barutag to the Jose Reyes Hospital, where hours after collapsing, Barutag was pronounced dead.

Angered by how the then Games and Amusements Board (GAB) failed in its duties to save the life of Barutag, I declined to take on another boxing assignment.

In the absence of an immediate response from the GAB, I feared for the lives of boxers I was covering as a sportscaster.

Years after that fateful night, Kamao, a feature on ring deaths by Jessica Soho gave me the opportunity to tell the story of the tragedy that was Barutag.

I remember that interview clearly as I decried the lack of know-how and the lack of a standby medical team from the GAB and the promoters of that fight held Dec. 12, 1995 that featured a young Pacquiao in the main event.

Back as boxing commentator

After a three-year hiatus from boxing, I resumed my duties as boxing commentator.

By this time, the GAB began instituting reforms to safeguard the welfare of the fighters. An emergency team was made mandatory by the GAB for its sanctioned fights.

It was at this point that Pacquiao's future began to unfold. And as they say, the rest is now history.

But in the midst of Pacquiao's worldwide fame, ring tragedies struck our Filipino gladiators.

Tragedy in Pacquiao era

In 2007, Lito Sisnorio, who was hoping to earn enough money for the birth of his child, took a fight in Bangkok against veteran Chatchai Sasakul, who Pacquiao knocked out in 1998 to wrest the WBC flyweight title.

Sisnorio, who was coming off a long lay-off, was knocked out cold by Sasakul and never made it back to the Philippines alive.

Last Nov. 13, 2009 in Las Vegas, Z "Buchoy" Gorres was all set for a breakout performance that will pave the way for a world title shot as he dominated the first nine rounds of a scheduled 10-rounder against Luis Melendez.

Z Gorres
In the final minute of the 10th, Gorres caught a wicked right from Melendez.

Though he was able to finish the fight and won by a unanimous decision, Gorres collapsed in his corner.

Gorres is now recuperating in Las Vegas after doctors performed a successful craniology to save his life.

Viloria's 'nightmare'

Fast forward to 2010.

Brian Viloria fought gallantly as he defended his light-flyweight crown and was actually dominating until the eighth round.

It was at this point that the durable Carlos Tamara of Colombia turned up the heat and landed telling blows against the IBF champion that led referee Bruce MacTavish to stop the fight with 1:15 remaining in the 12th and final round.

A visibly-exhausted Viloria left the ring and passed by me and my GMA News crew.

Moments later (2:37 p.m.), the medical team on standby at ringside was called to the locker room of Viloria who had collapsed and lay unconscious as his cornermen desperately tried to revive the former champion.

The ambulance initially brought Brian to the nearby San Juan de Dios Hospital. But the hospital’s lack of facilities forced those close to Viloria to transfer him to the Makati Medical Center, where he was immediately scanned for possible head injuries.
Former IBF light-flyweight champ Brian Viloria at the Makati Medical Center. GMA News TV grab

After a CT scan ordered by Dra. Regina Macalintal tested negative for any head injury, Viloria was declared out of danger at 4:30 p.m.

Years after experiencing the lows and the highs of Philippine boxing, I often ask myself why I continue to be around boxing.

I got my answer on Monday.

While recovering at the Makati Medical Center, Brian Viloria put the dangers of boxing in perspective.

"It's something you have to prepare for. As a fighter, it is something we prepare for. We know it can happen. You know the spectrum. You can be OK or you can die from it, just like in anything else. As long as you accept that, you will never be afraid." - OMG, GMANews.TV