By Alex P. Vidal/ PNS
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – The man who once adopted Manny Paquiao as a skinny “stow away” amateur boxer in the 80s said he saw the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight crown fall from the head of champion Miguel Angel Cotto when the two clash in a 12-round championship fight dubbed “Firepower” at the MGM Grand, here, on November 14.
“Sa nakita ko sa insayo nia kahapon, may pagkalalagyan si Cotto baka hanggang sixth round lang sia (Based on what I saw during Pacquiao’s training yesterday, I can see that Cotto might last only for six rounds),” volunteered Mario “Mar” Sumalinog, Pacquiao’s former coach in Team Davao del Sur in 1988 to 1989
Sumalinog, 48, who considers Pacquiao as his adopted son, was the coach of the fabled Team Davao del Sur that consisted of the then 14-year-old Pacquiao, future Philippine champion Roberto Moreno, Sonny Panding, Dennis Sabsal, Renato Moreno, Aldy Nut, Bobong Escalicas, future WBC international titlist Abner Cordero, and future WBO international champion Vernie Torres, who now acts as one of Team Pacquiao’s field men in the United States.
He considers Pacquiao’s speed and force as “the most deadly” among all the welterweights in the world today and that Cotto can never withstand them, he said.
Sumalinog is a former Philippine bantamweight champion. He came to the United States last year for Pacquiao’s duel with Oscar De La Hoya on December 5, his first-ever international trip.
“It was Manny who helped facilitate my travel documents,” sighed Sumalinog, whose four of five children—Michael, 23; Melvin, 22; Marjun, 20; and Mar Francis, 18–are all boxers and gold medalists in the Batang Pinoy”, a national amateur slugfest introduced in the 90’s by the Philippine Sports Commission.
Speaking in vernacular, Sumalinog said when Pacquiao invited him to watch his fight in the United States last year, he was first adamant to accept it “because I don’t know how to operate the elevators and I am not good in English as I have no formal college degree.”
He agreed to fly to the United States when he was accompanied by lawyer Luciano Camiros, who looks into Pacquiao’s legal documents in Digos, Davao del Sur.
Sumalinog, employee of the construction maintenance office of Davao del Sur capitol under Gov. Dodo Cagas, described Pacquiao as “generous “ and “with a good heart.” He discovered Pacquiao’s qualities when the young boxer trained under his tutelage and stayed at his house while fighting as a simon-pure, he said.
When Pacquiao decided to try his luck in Manila as a prizefighter in 1994 accompanied by boxing impresario Nanay Parcon, he and Sumalinog parted ways. After making a name and racking up victories in the “Blow by Blow” promotion of future business manager Rod Nazario and Lito Mondejar in Mandaluyong City, Sumalinog said Pacquiao paid him a surprise visit at his house in Brgy. Tagabuli, Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur.
“He came with no bodyguards and was alone,” recalled Sumalinog. “It was a tearful meeting because I chided him about the negative things I heard about him starting when he campaigned in Metro Manila.”
Sumalinog said he reminded Pacquiao about the sacrifices they made during his amateur days and their vow to place God at the center of their lives. He said Pacquiao told him, “Coach, I will never forget you for the rest of my life.”
He said Pacquiao invited him to watch his Oriental Pacific Boxing Federation (OPBF) title duel with Thailand’s 3K Battery in Mandaluyong City and his world title match against Erik Morales in Manila.
“And that’s how we became connected again,” he chortled.
Sumalinog credited Pacquiao’s original spiritual adviser, Fr. Elieser D. Capuyan, DCD of St. Jospeh The Worker Parish in Santa Cruz, for his and Pacquiao’s devotion to God.
“Hindi nakalimot yan sa Diyos. Kun ano man ang biyaya na nakamit niya ngayon at dahil sa pagmamahal nia sa Diyos at ordinaryong tao (He loves God and ordinary people),” Sumalinog concluded.