The runaway boxer

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Friday, July 4, 2014

WITH his 5’4 medium frame built, one would think Rex Wa-o is just an ordinary youngsters or just one of the neighborhood tug.

Although he seems to look more like a drunkard bum than a professional athlete, do not be deceived.

Wa-o just won his third championship belt after pummeling previously unbeaten Virden Rivera in the seventh round for the vacant WBC International bantamweight title at the Andres Bonifacio gym in Mandaluyong City.


For the Tadian, Mountain Province native, boxing was far from his dreams. Rather, he would dream of becoming a member of the police force had their family had enough to send him to school.

Wa-o was just an ordinary boy in his hometown living the simple life and was just happy enough to eat a decent three meals a day brought by his father who works as bus driver.

But destiny would soon seal his fate as a boxer one day when he got mugged near their town during a town fiesta.

“Nanood lang ako ng mga tao tapos bigla na lang may lumapit sa akin binogbog ako ng walang dahilan,” relates Wa-o. After that incident, Wa-o run away from their province and their town to put away the nightmare of being mugged with no reason at all.

He struck in his mind that someday, when he sees those who mugged him, he will have his own vengeance.

When Wa-o arrived in Baguio City, he found his way to several muay thai kick boxing gym in the city that started his career into combat sports.

“Pag dating ko ng Baguio, talagang nag pursige akong mag-aral ng boxing o kaya kick boxing kasi talagang gusto ko silang bawian,” added Wa-o who at that time was just 13 years old out of his first year in high school.

After several years of training, Wa-o was given a call by the then pledging mix martial arts promotion Universal Reality Combat Championship, the first in the country.

Wa-o squared off against another debutante, who would eventually became one of Asia’s best flyweight, Geje Eustaquio of Team Lakay.

Unfortunately, that fight came to a short end as he got beaten right after the 49th second mark of the first round.

His misfortune in mma would soon open him another door in combative sports.

The ‘Igorot Warrior’ put behind his loss and went on to knock out Jerron Talman in his debut as a pro boxer stopping his opponent in the fourth round at the Ynares Plaza Gymnasium.

After a rousing debut, Wa-o then went on to win another boxing match, this time via a unanimous decision over Jake Sawangin in 2012 during the annual fiesta of Philex Mining corporation. He would then follow it up with a referee stoppage victory in the third round after toppling Engelbert Moralde.

Although he was already undefeated after three fights in pro-boxing, Wa-o tried his luck anew in MMA, and was called by Guam based promotions Pacific Xtreme Combat.

But he got submitted in the first round anew which prompted his manger Brico Santig, of the Highland Boxing gym to discourage the future champion.

“Sinabihan ko siya noon. Sa MMA lagi kang talo, at least dito sa boxing undefeated ka, mas malaki ang chance na maging champion ka,” said Santig.

That heart to heart seemed to have waken up Wa-o from reality as he hang up his MMA globe in exchange for a better chance in boxing.

Wa-o then went on to rack two more victories before he was given a shot at the Philippines Luzon Professional Boxing Association (LuzProBA) super bantamweight title.

And he did it with ease as he knocked cold Dino Lelis in the second round of their scheduled 10 rounder match at the Victory Central Mall in Caloocan City wayback March of 2013.

Impressed with the win, Wa-o was again lined up for another fight, this time for the interim WBC Asian Boxing Council super bantamweight title.

It was not an easy fight for Wa-o at first after he got caught by a straight punch that sent him to the canvass in the opening round.

Drawing inspiration in front of adoring fans, Wa-o staged a comeback in the second round pummeling Danilo Gabisay with a barrage of punches that prompted the referee to stop the bout with 1:47 remaining in the second round to win the belt.

After the sensational knock out, Wa-o went into hiatus with his interim title stripped from him.

Proving he has still more years of boxing ahead of him, Wa-o returned to pro- boxing again by stopping Gerry Patenio in the sixth of their eight round match up.

His win against Patenio has promoted his manager to once again revive their desire for the young fighter to become champion once again.

Wa-o stayed unbeaten in his ninth bout and escaped tough as nail Jovil Marayan via a unanimous decision to wrest the ABF featherweight crown, his second in his two year professional boxing career.

His tenth win however would mean the sweetest in all of his 10 bouts when he captured the green belt against a fellow Filipino earlier this year.

With him winning the belt, Santig said he hopes Wa-o would remain a dedicated boxer as they eye for bigger fight opportunity in the years to come.

“Sana magtuloy-tuloy lang yung sipag niya. Eventually mabibigyan din siya ng magandang chance na lumaban sa world,” added Santig.

As for Wa-o, the desire to avenge his mugging a few years back has died down.

“Nung naging boxer na ako parang ayoko ng bumawi, mas naging kaibigan ko pa sila ngayon,” Wa-o ended.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 05, 2014.


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