Photo by Oliver Suarez
When talking about Filipino boxing, Manny Pacquiao is often the topic of discussion. Everybody is looking for the next Pacquiao and many of the younger Filipino boxers want to emulate his style and follow his footsteps.
But there’s another great fighter from the island of Philippines and his name is Gerry ‘Fearless’ Penalosa. The tragedy is he’s only become familiar to most boxing fans in the latter years of his career and many never got the chance to see him at his best. It can even be argued that his only legit loss was against Juan Manuel Lopez as he has been the victim of numerous hometown decisions very early in his career.
Freddie Roach has often said that he’s the best technical fighter from the Philippines and when he trained in Roy Jones’ camp before his fight against In Joo Choo, the former pound for pound king came away very impressed with Penalosa’s skills and wanted to sign him into a promotional contract.
In fact, Penalosa was Pacquiao’s mentor and more than held his own in sparring sessions with the Filipino icon in his flyweight days. Penalosa’s set of skills is impressive and if given the same opportunities as others in his prime, there’s no doubt that boxing fans would have put him in the same class as Rafael Marquez and Johnny Tapia.
If there is a fighter that young Filipino fighters should it emulate it is Gerry Penalosa. Everybody wants to be the next Pacquiao, but the latter is once in a lifetime talent with extraordinary physical gifts. Also, people often talk about Pacquiao’s power and speed, but one of the reasons he’s accomplished so much later in his career is that he’s improved upon his fundamentals and ring generalship
There might not be anyone better in the history of Philippine boxing when it comes to fundamentals and ring generalship than the ‘Fearless’ one. Penalosa’s technical skills and guile have been the main factors in his success even at an advance age. Those are intangibles that most can attain with hard work.
Watch his fights and see how he avoids his opponents’ punches even in close quarters by using subtle body and head movements; these are the skills that have helped him find ways to win even against opponents that may have better physical gifts.
In addition, many of young Filipino boxers can learn about what it takes to be successful for a long time by following Penalosa’s work ethic. Sure Penalosa has skills, but his work ethic is the one that has helped him sustain his success all this time. Now, some young Filipino fighters seem to take their opportunities for granted and not thinking that it can disappear in a blink of an eye.
Many young fighters can also learn from how he handles adversities in the ring. When Penalosa is in the ring, there is not a more focused fighter. He doesn’t let the emotions of the crowd or what he’s opponent is doing to dictate what he wants to do; he remains patient and follows his strategies for the fight. Remember his win against Gonzalez? He was losing, but stayed calmed and patient as he waited to for his opponent to make a mistake and once Gonzales did, he landed a vicious body shot immobilized the Mexican champion.
Also, anyone who has followed his career can tell you that he didn’t get the nickname ‘Fearless’ for no reason. The American audience got a taste of that during his fight with Juan Manuel Lopez. Even though he was being overpowered and dominated, he still kept coming and occasionally landed some solid blows on the Puerto Rican star. Even though Lopez was dominating Penalosa, the latter’s perseverance and courage put doubts in Lopez as proven by his comment after the 7th round when he asked his corner if he was winning.
Now Penalosa’s career is winding down, and his accomplishments may have been overshadowed by his countryman’s achievements, but real boxing fans know what he’s done and he’s got nothing to be ashamed of. One of the few fighters who took full advantage of his skills and tried to maximize his potential with the opportunities he was given. No matter what happens from now on, he’s already established himself as one of the legends of Philippine boxing.
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