By Nick Giongco
Time was when the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, just a stone’s throw from where actor James Dean was last seen before crashing his Porsche Spyder in 1955, was the gym of choice of ambitious Filipino fighters.
While Freddie Roach’s sacred training ground remains a must-visit, a gym in Florida, is starting to attract a slew of fast-rising Filipino punchers.
Welcome to Osmiri “El Moro” Fernandez’s gym in sunny Miami.
Currently, Fernandez’s sweat shop is home to a new set of top Filipino prospects, including power-puncher Reymart Gaballo, Mark Bernaldez and Mike Plania, all fighting under the banner of JC Mananquil of General Santos City.
On July 2, Bernaldez becomes the second Filipino to fight in the coronavirus era when he battles Albert Bell also in Sin City.
Gaballo packs a whopping 23-0 record with 20 KOs, including 12 in the first round.
Fernandez, who has assumed the role of caretaker with the inability of Mananquil to travel owing to the pandemic, spoke to Spanish-language newspaper El Nuevo Herald and could not help but paint a rosy picture.
“They like to come because here we have discipline, control, attention. They are happy, they like our work, they have seen the results. Here we have helped them to improve,” said Fernandez as translated in loose English.
As for Gaballo, who is on the cusp of a world title shot, Fernandez said the 23-year-old bantam from Polomolok in South Cotabato will go places.
“Gaballo is a great prospect, someone who will give something to talk about in the future,” he said.
It was Plania who put everything in motion with his upset of Greer, who suffered two knockdowns courtesy each time of Plania’s left hook.
It’s going to be another “surprise” victory, promised Fernandez.
Mananquil admits he is not content with sheer Filipino talent in molding his boxers to perfection.
“I’ve always felt that we have to add technique to our boxers’ skills not just rely on pure heart. Cuban boxing is scientific and our boxers will benefit from it,” said Mananquil, who met Fernandez in New York in 2015.
The house where Gaballo and company are residing at is just beside Moro’s Gym.
Suddenly, there is a new go-to-place for Filipino boxers in the East Coast.