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Manny Pacquiao

Gerry Peñalosa: RP's Cinderella Man

August 16, 2007 12:55am

He fought valiantly for the two children who meant the world to him, Juliene Gayle and Julio Caesar, like survival and respect rested between victory or defeat.

They are seven and five years old, respectively, too young to know that more than 10 years ago, long before they were born, there was Gerry Peñalosa, a boxing legend.

At about the same time that Manny Pacquiao was still carving a name for himself by becoming champion of the Orient, their father was THE Gerry Peñalosa, a great former champion.

He was King of Mactan, who defeated challengers like the way folk hero Lapu-Lapu defended the sultanate of Cebu with island-forged weapons, against the likes of sword-wielding Magellan, the great conqueror for Spain.

This weekend, he would reemerge and become king of the world for the second time around, vanquishing a great champion in the epic Philippines-Mexico war in Sacramento, California, that is dubbed as the World Cup of Boxing.

Peñalosa's win made it all sweeter by anchoring a 5-1 rout of the seemingly invincible Mexicans.

Respectability could have come earlier, last March 17, 2007, against Daniel Ponce de Leon, in the heavier weight category of 122 pounds. After losing in that bid where many believed was a winning effort by the closest of margins, Peñalosa, now 35, will get another shot at Jhonny Gonzalez's 118 pound WBO title.

And the rest is history, as the taller and younger Gonzalez would never recover from a single debilitating liver shot that would send shock waves around the boxing world.

After losing the crown and several other heartbreaking title retention bids in South Korea and Japan (twice against separate opponents on both occasions) in a four-year span from 1998 to 2002, Peñalosa decided to call it quits.

He was 30 years old and thought the super-flyweight division was only for those who can hit and run, hit and run faster.

Two years later, in 2004, Peñalosa would embark on a new journey, inspired by his close friend Manny Pacquiao's success.

The two warriors, Peñalosa and Pacquiao, would inspire each other to conquer greater heights. With Freddie Roach acting more in his capacity as coach rather than his manager, it was only a matter of time before Peñalosa would hit paydirt.

In the eyes of his children, Pacquiao is the star, the ring idol who endorses various products on television, whose charismatic smile conquers all and could command millions.

They know their father Gerry is a great champion but the last time they were in Las Vegas, he failed and fell short.

"Para talaga sa pamilya ko ito, para sa bansa at unang-una, para sa Diyos," said Peñalosa, teary-eyed, happy and contented that finally, the dream became a reality. His wife Glodilyn has always been there, supportive and his greatest fan.

"Now, I can show my children a real championship belt. The last time, I bought them a wrestling belt, a replica of what the WWE wrestlers wore," added Peñalosa. "This time, they can call it their own and they can wear it and show it to the world."

Many experts believed in Peñalosa's talent but only a handful thought he could go this far, even at 35, in the lower weight classes where foot and hand speed could very well be key to victory more than power. But Roach and Pacquiao and a handful of ringsiders knew that Peñalosa still had a few more good years left.

"Gerry is one of the best boxers that I have ever handled," said Roach. "Technically, he is one of the best, even better than Manny."

Another boxing man and historian, Macka Foley, would claim that Peñalosa ranked up there with the younger version of James Toney as the best boxers to have ever trained at the Wild Card gym in Hollywood.

If Pacquiao was fire, Peñalosa was ice.

Peñalosa would tear down an opponent with his smooth-as-silk defense, economical but effective movements and accurate counter-punching. But lately, he has added more to his offensive arsenal a varied style of attack and a more mature look at 12 rounds of championship boxing where only the end result is winning, nothing more, nothing less.

"I will continue to fight for as long as I feel I can be at my best," said Peñalosa. "To all those who have supported me in this journey, thank you." - GMANews.TV