THE year 2016 was a great year for Philippine sports – particularly for Negros Occidental with boxing and football which stood high before the challenges in international arena by contributing much pride and honor for the province.
Negrense pride and boxing champions Donnie ‘Ahas’ Nietes, ‘King’ Arthur Villanueva, Sonny Boy Jaro, Ariston Palicte and Richard ‘Explosive’ Claveras led the list of individual athletes who made remarkable stories in 2016.
The Murcia-born and 34-year-old Nietes (39-1-4 win-loss-draw with 22KOs) again proved that he belonged to the list of the world’s bests after outsmarted Mexican Edgar Sosa via unanimous decision to claim the WBO Inter-Continental flyweight title during the Pinoy Pride 38: Philippines vs. Mexico” at the StubHub Center in Carson, California held in September.
The longest reigning Filipino champion brought Sosa into boxing clinic on his debut in the flyweight – dominating the whole 12 rounds, 120-108 in all the three judges.
Nietes went up a weight division higher after his fruitful dominance in the junior flyweight – including his last title defense against Mexican Raul Garcia last May at the University of St. La Salle.
Meanwhile, joining Nietes in a successful fight in Carson is 27-year-old Bago City-hailed Villanueva (30-1 win-loss with 16KOs) who sealed the unfinished business with Juan ‘El Peñita’ Jimenez via a second round stoppage and kept the WBO Asia-Pacific bantamweight belt.
Also in September, Victorias City-hailed Claveras (15-2-2 with 13KOs) survived the hard-fighting and erstwhile undefeated Jeronil Borres of Cagayan de Oro City via majority decision to claim the vacant Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation (OPBF) Silver title during the ‘Best of the Best – Double OPBF Silver Championship held at the Strike Revilla gymnasium in Bacoor City, Cavite.
The 27-year-old Negrense and United Boxing gym fighter successfully impressed the judges with 77-76, 77-75 and 76-76 even.
In November, former World Boxing Championship (WBC) flyweight champion and Silay City-native Jaro (43-13-5, 30 knockouts) is back in the world stage as he earned another chance for the world title after capturing the WBC International super flyweight title when he defeated Marjun Pantilgan via unanimous decision as judges scoring: 99-92, 96-94 and 97-93 at Makati Cinema Square in Makati City.
Jaro, who won his 9th winning streak, last tasted the world title belt in 2012 when he stopped Thailand’s Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in the 6th round before losing the crown months later in a controversial split decision loss to Toshiyuki Igarashi of Japan.
And, before the year ended, another Bagonhon Palicte (22-2, 18 knockouts) came out triumphant in his debut fight in the United States with a split decision victory over then undefeated Oscar Cantu at the Downtown Las Vegas Event Center and won the World Boxing Organization Inter-Continental and North American Boxing Federation super flyweight titles.
Two judges favored the 25-year-old Bago City pride, 98-92 and 96-94 while the third judge scored the fight, 96-94 for Cantu.
Aside from the pro-boxing, Negrense boxer Rogen Ladon of Bago City also tried to bring a medal for the country during the 2016 Rio Olympics but, failed as he bowed out of contention following a unanimous decision loss to his Colombian rival Yurberjen Herney Martinez in the light flyweight division preliminaries.
Ladon’s defeat also extended the medal drought for Philippine boxing since they last won the silver medal on Mansueto ‘Onyok’ Velasco during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
One of the top achievers in 2016 is Ceres Negros FC (formerly Ceres-La Salle FC) when it advanced to the Round of 16 of the Asian Football Confederation Cup but, suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 nil loss to the visiting South China AA at Panaad pitch in summer.
It was indeed one of the most successful run by a Filipino club in the AFC tournament.
But, Ceres FC wasn’t done yet with its goal to be among the Southeast Asia’s top teams when they captured the 2nd runner-up honor 2016 RHB Singapore Cup in Singapore – the highest honor a Filipino club has ever accomplished in this tournament.
Moreover, the club also finished runner-up in the United Football League to clinch another playoff ticket in the AFC Cup this year.
Also made history in Philippine football is the University of St. La Salle Varsity Team when it dethroned erstwhile champions San Carlos City FC, 1-0 in the U21 division finals of the 2016 Dynamic Football League 3rd Conference and clinched the ticket to the PFF-Smart U22 National Championships in Iloilo this month.
The La Sallian side also successfully defended their 2016 NOPSSCEA men’s football title over arch rival University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos.
Meanwhile, San Carlos City-based Central Philippine State University (CPSU) successfully defended their SCUAA Regional title in Dumaguete City – which paved way for the Negrense booters the opportunity to keep their national crown in summer.
For the grassroots development, the Philippines also earned the AFC President’s Recognition Award for Grassroots Football (developing country) during the 2016 AFC Awards Night held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Negros Occidental Football Association president Ricky Yanson, who also heads the Philippine Football Federation Grassroots Development Committee, felt grateful that for the second time that the federation received the acknowledgement.
Yanson stressed that the award justified their efforts in improving the football program in the provinces and in the country.
In school-based sports, the 10 Schools Divisions of the Department of Education in Negros Occidental staged their own division meets as qualifier to the upcoming NIRAA Meet in Dumaguete City next month.
The change in the format of competition brought in mixed reactions in the sports community but, generally benefited student-athletes from other school divisions.
In tertiary competition, many times champions STI-West Negros University Mustangs finally regained its crown in the men’s basketball after dethroning University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos Rams in overtime.
It’s also the Mustangs’ first title under STI management.
Finally, for the first time in many years, Bacolod City hosted the 1stNegros Open Chess Tournament featuring among the country’s top woodpushers – in which it was bankrolled by Tony Aguirre and Hugo Villanueva.
International Master (IM) Ronald Dableo captured the title followed by IM Oliver Dimakiling, Grand Master (GM) Darwin Laylo, FIDE Master Sander Severino of Silay City and Ellan Asuela of Bacolod City.
Meanwhile, GM Rogelio ‘Joey’ Antonio Jr. placed 6th over-all followed by IM Chito Garma, John Marvin Miciano, Danny Mangao and IM Joel Pimentel to complete the Top 10.
And, with that successful staging, Aguirre said that they are planning to elevate the event to the international level in accordance with the FIDE standards as they intend to invite England GM Nigel Short and Chinese Women’s GM Hou Yifan to join the event.
This year, we are expecting boxing and football to lead again the sports undertakings which will bring pride and honor for the province and the country with the 2017 Southeast Asian Games and AFC Cup are scheduled to unfold starting summer.*
(Photo: Boxingchampions Donnie ‘Ahas’ Nietes, ‘King’ Arthur Villanueva, Sonny Boy Jaro, Ariston Palicte and Richard ‘Explosive’ Claveras)