August 19, 2020 | 11:10 a.m.
MANILA, Philippines – Gleason’s. Wild Card. Aztec. Elorde. These are some of the most famous boxing halls in the world.
You can add ALA Gym in any sentence that talks about famous fight clubs.
Unfortunately, the famous ALA Boxing Gym – a world-class gymnasium to be proud of – in Mandaue, Cebu has been eliminated. Not by rival boxers or powerful gyms, but by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a terse but moving statement released to the media on Tuesday August 18, the gymnasium founded by Antonio L. Aldeguer in 1985 said: âAfter 35 years, ALA Boxing would like to say goodbye and thank supporters around the world. The pandemic and the shutdown of our longtime broadcast partner ABS-CBN have affected the overall situation and the future of the business. All of our fighters have been freed so that they can seek greener pastures for their respective careers.
And that statement is like an uppercut to the jaw; the one who crushes you. Because not only is it important because it has produced many world champions, but culturally it also places the queen city of the south, Cebu, on the sport map.
Cebuano sports journalists lamented his untimely death.
âALA’s exit to the boxing scene is obviously the end of an era,â said Dong Secuya, respected boxing scribe, of philboxing.com. âIt is radically changing the landscape of boxing in the country, much more in Cebu. I doubt Cebu will ever regain its glory days in boxing now that the AAL is gone. But thanks to ALA for giving us so much boxing history and entertainment. Hopefully a new generation of fighters and fans will take inspiration from ALA to continue its legacy. ”
Said Rico Navarro of The Freeman, âWhen Filipino sports history is written, you can never ignore ALA Boxing. They paved the way for the implementation of a comprehensive boxing program from its basic activities to professional boxing. Their Pinoy Pride series set the bar for how world class boxing events should be organized. But more importantly, ALA Boxing has produced boxers who have grown to be better people. “
Added Mike T. Limpag of SunStar Cebu, âALA Boxing was Cebu Boxing and Cebu Boxing was ALA Boxing. Antonio L. Aldeguer had a heart of gold and there was a time when he didn’t even have his fighters in a rock-solid contract as he treated them like family. I think it wasn’t until the new generation of ALA fighters – Tuncao and Mayol among them – got hacked by other promoters that he started getting them to sign a contract.
ABS-CBN Director Al Neri, who worked on the Pinoy Pride series, said, âALA Promotions is one of the most organized boxing promotion companies we have worked with. From the United States to Dubai , from Cebu to Bohol, they staged the world- class boxing events that gave Filipino fight fans plenty to be proud of in our nation.Quality fight cards here and at the foreigner.”
Bill Velasco, STAR, spoke and said: âI have had the pleasure of traveling and seeing the legacy of ALA promotions develop throughout the Philippines, the United States as well as the Middle East. . They boosted the careers of Donnie Nietes, Milan Melindo, Boom Boom Bautista, Z Gorres and many more. They risked it all with groundbreaking promotions and the Pinoy Pride series. Sadly, as the industry has become more competitive, the pandemic has swept the world, and their TV partner has lost their franchise, the cost of the lawsuit has risen too much. And they made decisions that hindered their own growth.
Before this announcement, ALA Gym had in its “King” team Arthur Villanueva, Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista, Jerssel Mark “Magnifico” Magsayo, Milan “El Metodico” Melindo, Melvin “El Gringo” Jerusalem, Jason “El NiÃ±o” Pagara , Donnie “Alas” Nietes, “Prince” Albert Pagara, Jeo “Santino” Santisima, Jimrex “Executioner” Jaca, Arjan Canillas, Elmo “Bisdak” Traya, Jimmy “Popeye” Paypa, Rolito “Barili” Nengasca, AJ “Bazooka” Banal, Z “The Dream” Gorres, Jess Rhey “Wanma” Waminal and Rocky “The Road Warrior” Fuentes.
Among the achievements of ALA Gym was the organization of a boxing event in the city of Tagbiliran in 2005 which brought together more than 30,000 fans to celebrate Bohol’s pride, Bautista.
There was the partnership with Golden Boy Promotions in 2006 with the organization of the WBO world title fight between Z Gorres and Mexican Fernando Montiel which ended in a shocking and controversial split decision that saw the latter win the Victoire.
ALA Gym and Golden Boy Productions teamed up again for the Boxing World Cup between Mexico and the Philippines at Arco Arena in Sacramento, California. Filipino fighters – Diosdado Gabi, Michael Domingo, AJ Banal, Z Gorres, Gerry PeÃ±alosa and Rey Bautista – beat their Mexican counterparts, 5-1.
ALA hosted another busy local event at the Cebu Coliseum, although AJ Banal lost to Panamanian fighter Rafael Concepcion by 10th round knockout.
With ABS-CBN, ALA created Pinoy Pride, the longest-running and most successful boxing series on television.
Nietes, an ALA Gym product, is only the third Filipino to be listed by The Ring magazine in their best pound-for-pound fighters. The other two are Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire.
I first met Tony Aldeguer (in his gym in Cebu, I have to say) while he was working for Solar Sports and we showed off some of his fighters on our show. I admired his facilities and loved the vibe that emanated from his fight club. When we got attached to work, Aldeguer balked at being interviewed for TV as he pushed his fighters to stand out. Eventually he agreed to an interview for the boxing special we did.
“Our mission,” he said at the time, “was to show that the Filipino boxer is world class. And this boxing, whether for the sport in Cebu or for the Philippines, is world class.”
He kept his word.
And painful as it may be, it’s hard to say goodbye to an institution that was definitelyâ¦ world class.