Three years ago, when Manny Pacquiao chose to train here in Cebu for his second fight with Marco Antonio Barrera, I decided to chase him around and persuade him to sign my boxing gloves. The only problem was that I had no access to Pacquiao even though I knew where he was staying and where he was training . Thankfully, this dilemma was solved with the help of a friend of my ex-girlfriend. The daughter of a former boxing Olympian who represented the country in the 1984 summer Olympics in Los Angeles, her father had connections with both Salud and a local barangay captain close to Pacquiao.
While we were waiting at the RWS gym for Pacquiao to arrive, I had the chance to meet head trainer Freddie Roach and Pacquiao’s childhood friend and confidant Buboy Fernandez. Both graciously signed my boxing gloves. Incidentally, former light flyweight and flyweight world champion Dodie Boy Peñalosa was also there and I went over to him and shook his hand. I asked him if he could sign my gloves. He was a bit surprised, and asked me why I wanted his autograph. I told him that even though I was just a few months old when he first picked up a world championship, I was able to watch a few of his fights via replay and I was a big fan. He smiled sheepishly and proceeded to autograph my gloves. The barangay captain saw this and, outside of Peñalosa’s earshot, asked me why I even bothered to ask for Dodie Boy’s autograph. “He was a world champion,” I said, matter-of-factly. “Well, yes,” he replied sarcastically. “When you were still in your mother’s womb.”
After waiting for roughly a couple of hours, I finally got Pacquiao’s autograph. I was thrilled, of course, but after the whole thing was over, I had a bad taste in my mouth. I couldn’t shake off the thought of the barangay captain brushing aside, fuck, even ridiculing Dodie Boy’s gesture to sign my gloves. It got me thinking: Is this how we treat and give thanks to our boxing champions after they’ve risked life and limb to give glory and honor to the country? As soon as they hang up their gloves and the euphoria has died down, as soon as the spotlights are no longer trained on them inside that squared circle, are they doomed to languish in obscurity and oblivion?
A year after that incident, I met former WBA Bantamweight and WBC Featherweight Champion Luisito “Lindol” Espinosa. He was at ringside watching the AJ Banal-Rafael Concepcion fight at the Cebu Coliseum. After the fight (which Banal lost), I had the chance to get a picture taken with Espinosa, using my girlfriend Diana’s camera phone. Even though I had a lot of questions that I wanted to ask Louie, I didn’t get a chance to talk to him. It goes without saying that I have been a big fan of Luisito ever since I was a kid. He was one of the biggest names in Philippine boxing way before Manny Pacquiao, and I enjoyed watching him fight.
I have been fortunate enough to have kept in touch with Espinosa through chat, email, and the occasional call the past few weeks. Nowadays, Espinosa, a green card holder, is busy toiling in quiet obscurity as a deep cleaner in a casino in Daly City, California. He has also flipped burgers at McDonald’s and stocked shelves in Costco. It has been five years since he fought his last fight, a third round knockout loss to Mexican Cristobal Cruz; it has been 13 years since his fight against Argentinian Carlos Rios, a fight he won and won convincingly, a fight that he has yet to get paid for. To this day, Louie, now without a boxing license, is still fighting in court to collect that $150,000 purse that the promoters owe him. As if all of that wasn’t enough, Espinosa’s wife left him and took their three kids with her. She is now living with another man in Arizona.
I originally intended to write a feature story on Luisito, much like the story I wrote about Z Gorres which Fire Quinito’s Jaemark Tordecilla graciously posted in his blog. But then my friend Bonn suggested to me that I write a book instead, and I was taken aback. Honestly, I don’t believe I have what it takes to write an entire book.
But Luisito Espinosa’s story needs to be told, and a simple article, no matter how meticulously written, won’t do it any justice. Yes, it has to be told in book form, perhaps even by someone as obscure as this boxing fan. Not so much to bring Espinosa back to the limelight and his glory days as to keep him from languishing in obscurity and oblivion after working so fucking hard to give glory and honor to his country. I am deeply honored that Luisito has agreed for me, a lowly boxing blogger, to write a book about his storied career, and more importantly, his life after hanging up his boxing gloves.
Mabuhay ka, Luisito “Lindol” Espinosa.
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