CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 30 Apr) – Inside a small construction yard converted into a training camp, 11-year-old Mico Gadot and 40 other youngsters aged 11 to 19 live a life that they believe will one day propel them to boxing stardom like their idol Manny Pacquiao.
Every day, Gadot and the other youngsters take turns heaving heavy rocks to strengthen their muscles – all under the watchful eyes of a boxing trainer.
The trainers, all former professional boxers, see to it that these boys and girls train hard so they can participate in the boxing events of Batang Pinoy, or the Philippine Youth Games, their first ticket to stardom.
Gadot and the 40 young boxers, including five girls, live in a house inside the yard that serves as their training camp in Aluba, Barangay Macasandig here.
The boxing trainers found them when they competed at the Boxing in the Park held every Sunday afternoon at the Amphitheater in Divisoria in this city.
After they were selected, the young boxers are invited to join the Cagayan de Oro boxing team and asked to live and train at the compound in Aluba.
Cagayan de Oro boxing team head coach Elmer Pamisa said the young boxers are given free education while they train and receive allowances ranging from P2,500 to P5,000 a month.
“It is good to teach boxing to the young. They are fast learners and you can see how they develop to become good boxers,” Pamisa said.
Pointing at Gadot and other young boxers, Pamisa said these young boys will greatly improve their skills in just a few months of training.
“Their boxing stance will no longer be like that two months from now. Their skills will improve. A few months from now they will be ready for the Batang Pinoy boxing tournaments,” he said.
The Mindanao qualifying leg of Batang Pinoy, according to its website, will be in Koronadal City in October. The national championships will follow in late November and early December in Cebu City.
Training at the boxing camp, during the summer vacation, involves daily exercises starting at 6 a.m. until 3 p.m., with only a few breaks. But it won’t be as hectic when classes start, except on weekends.
Because they lack in exercise equipment, the trainers improvise, using what they can get from the construction materials that are aplenty around their training camp.
The trainers use heavy rocks and heavy metal bars for weight training, weightlifting and powerlifting.
The young boxers are used to heaving rocks and metal pipes, including old truck tires, every day.
On Wednesdays, they spar against each other so the trainers can see which boxing skill they can still improve.
The young Gadot has one win under his belt – a boy he knocked out at the Boxing in the Park two months ago.
He said for that victory, he won P200 while his defeated opponent received P150.
From his winning, Gadot bought a mouthpiece for P80 and a bundle of competition tapes to wrap his tiny hands every time he uses a pair of gloves.
“My father paid some of his own money to so I can buy the tapes,” Gadot narrated.
Gadot said his father, a vegetable vendor at the public market in Barangay Puerto, was his first trainer and their sessions was held every evening at their small house in Barangay Bugo.
He has now taken the training seriously despite the summer heat and his small size.
“I want to win every fight and become the next Manny Pacquiao,” Gadot said.
Coach Pamisa always teaches the mantra of winning and becoming the next Manny Pacquiao or Nonito “The Flash” Donaire to the young boxers.
“Winning medals should always be in your minds when you compete. A gold medal is preferable,” Pamisa told his wards.
He said most of their recruits come from poor families in the city and nearby province of Misamis Oriental.
“Boxing is always a sports for the poor. No rich man’s son wants his face and body to be battered,” Pamisa pointed out.
Salvador Salva, 17, still remembers how he trained with an empty stomach because his family, who tills a small farm in Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental, had yet to cook their first meal of the day.
“I had to find where I could get rice to cook for breakfast when I trained. It was very hard to jog for several kilometers on an empty stomach,” he narrated.
Salva, who was 13 when he started training, won three amateur fights in in Gingoog when he was discovered by Pamisa and invited to join the Cagayan de Oro boxing team.
Like Gadot and the rest, Salva also dreamed to become the next Manny Pacquiao so he can at least bring some food to the table of his family in Gingoog.
Salva now receives P5,000 a month and has his own quarters at the Aluba boxing camp.
He is scheduled to fight in the next Batang Pinoy tournament in November.