Very few boxers can boast that they walk away from boxing on their own terms, especially those who tasted what it is to be in the limelight and earn huge stack of money on the side.
More often, boxers overstay their welcome in the sport that makes you old by the time you hit 35. Sometimes, you don’t even go past 30 before you know you are on your way out. Boxing is a cruel physical sport. Many went broke after raking in millions. Few succeeded after they stepped down the ring.
Gerry Peñalosa, one of the few multiple boxing champions the Philippines has produced, fought his last fight over the weekend, stopping a Thai opponent in the fourth round. It was his 65th professional bout.
Many would have preferred him fight his last under the glare of Hollywood or Las Vegas lights, me included. But Gerry chose to do it in a faraway place where, if not for the internet technology, the result would have not been known even now.
Peñalosa is perhaps the only Filipino boxing champion who was never dropped to the canvas by any of his opponents. For a guy who fought 65 professional fights and faced the best, that is a mean feat. While his professional record showed he lost eight times over his illustrious career, only one of them – against Juan Manuel Lopez – can be considered a convincing loss.
Gerry burst into the limelight when Philippine boxing was almost at its lowest ebb. When he turned professional, Rolando Navarette was already a journeyman. When he made his mark as a world champion, another former Filipino titlist, Luisito Espinosa, was losing every other fight.
But Gerry largely toiled and showcased his talent in Asia. Although he was good, big-time promoters hardly took a second look at him. In fact, he may have been too good for his own good.
It was not until Manny Pacquiao conquered the imagination of the world of boxing that Peñalosa’s true worth was noticed.
By that time, however, he was already an aged but still dangerous warrior. He was avoided by champions in his weight class. Gerry was forced to take on heavier guys just to earn another crack at a world title.
Once, he succeeded – against Johnny Gonzales. At least thrice he failed. All of these fights, by the way, were held when Gerry, at 35 years old and above, was supposed to be way past the prime of a championship caliber boxer.
His longevity in the sport nevertheless made Gerry a specimen of an athlete. His style allowed him to avoid the beatings that would have shortened other fighter’s boxing career. His unassuming and simple lifestyle also allowed Gerry to keep himself fresh even way beyond his 38-year-old body.
Lithe as he was, Gerry was by no means durable and indomitable.
Gerry deserves to be in the Hall of Fame one day and is the one Filipino boxer worthy of emulating both inside and outside the ring.