BOXING TO LIVE
CAGAYAN DE ORO—In the hills of this city in the Philippines’ northern Mindanao region, an amateur boxing program provides boys and girls as young as 11 a unique opportunity to serve flag and country, and at the same time take a shot at a better life.
In a country where poverty levels are high and many young people drop out of school, programs like these are uncommon. The choices the parents and the children have to make are not easy. On the one hand, boxing is a violent sport and studies have shown that head trauma could lead to long-term injuries. On the other hand, the program gives them a chance to stay in school, and avoid the certainty of failure in life.
This grassroots development program recruits potential boxers through a boxing match at the City’s amphitheater. Dubbed “Boxing at the Park,” the event attracts competitors from 11 to 19 years old to fight in front of a crowd. They come from all over Misamis Oriental and neighboring provinces. There is no requirement except a willingness to fight. The local barangay or village captain and coach act as scouts.
“It is difficult to teach a child bravery,” said head coach Elmer Pamisa. “But technique and tactics are easy.”
Those who are recruited into the program become full time residents of the training camp and undergo rigorous training six days a week until they can move on to the National Team. The boxers are classified according to their skill level and receive stipends accordingly. Class A boxers receive P1,600 per month while those in Class B get P500. Developmental boxers do not receive any cash benefits.
The benefits include full residency, meals, and a two-year education, which, upon completion, provides them with a high school diploma. The older students are also able to enroll at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
As amateur boxers, they get to compete in local and regional competitions. And if they get accepted into the National Team, they have the opportunity to participate in international competitions like the ASEAN games as well as the Olympics.
“My main goal in supporting this program is to produce the Olympic Gold,” said Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno, the program’s sponsor.
But there is also a strong temptation to turn professional instead of pursuing the amateur boxing path since there is more money in professional fights.
Moreno tries to dissuade his boxers from going professional too early and instead pursue the amateur path to represent flag and country. The high school diploma they earn while in the training camp also provides a back up in case a boxing career doesn’t work out.
As an example, Pamisa pursued a career as a boxing coach and then joined the military after being diagnosed with a head injury at the prime of his amateur boxing career in the late 90s.
The young boxers’ hard work has paid off. At the recently concluded Batang Pinoy Boxing Competition in Tagum City Davao, the CDO team became overall champion, hauling in five gold, three silver and two bronze medals. Coach Pamisa had promised eight medals and came back with 10.
The gold medalists from the CDO team were John Vincent Pangga for the light pinweight division, Marco John Rementizo for junior light flyweight, lady boxers Gena Casim at 48 kg, Mary Ann Laug at 38 kg and Jolibeth Maglasang, 40 kg.
(Jinggo Montenejo completed his Diploma in Visual Journalism from the Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University in December 2016. ACFJ is currently accepting applications to the DVJ program for 2017. Application forms can be accessed here. ).