By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Maybe it’s a Filipino thing, or an IBO thing.
Either way, the method in which two recent natives of the Southeast Asian island cluster won jewelry sanctioned by the International Boxing Organization was similar in its execution – if not its significance.
Edrin Dapudong, a 27-year-old who’s been a pro since 2005, picked up his initial career world title belt – the IBO’s super flyweight championship – with a blasting cap of a left hand that ignited on the chin of incumbent Gideon Buthelezi, sent him face-first to the floor and ended his title reign.
The fireworks came four years, a month and 13 days after another islander you might have heard of – a seven-division kid by the name of Pacquiao – delivered his own buggy-whip of a left hand that put Ricky Hatton flat on his back and gave the IBO junior welterweight belt a sudden new owner.
To the surprise of no one with a remote handle on geography, the 34-year-old Pacquiao is idolized by Dapudong, who speaks of his role model with a reverence. Adding to the thrill of his achievement, the student stopped by the teacher’s house shortly after his big win to talk shop and compare bling.
“My manager, (Emmanuel) Pinol, is a close friend of our boxing hero, Manny Pacquiao. (We) went to General Santos City, which is only about three hours away from my hometown, and i showed him my IBO championship belt,” Dapudong said. “He immediately told me, ‘I also have this.’ I knew he was referring to the IBO championship belt he won when he knocked out Ricky Hatton.
“Manny Pacquiao is every Filipino boxer's idol. Everybody wants to become the next Manny Pacquiao, but honestly I do not believe that there is any boxer in the Philippines now who could surpass the achievements. I already idolized him and I saw him fight twice in North Cotabato when my manager was still the governor. In terms of popularity, there is no Filipino boxer who could come close.
“Not even Nonito Donaire and Brian Viloria.”
Though no one would confuse the accomplishments of a 29-5 junior bantamweight with those of a multiple-division title claimant and pound-for-pound elitist, Dapudong’s one-punch starching of Buthelezi is sure to get mention with 2013’s other top KOs when holiday awards season arrives.
Dapudong was beaten narrowly over 12 rounds when the two met seven months earlier, but landed well with several long right hands to the body early in the rematch. He ended matters with a single whistling hook that pitched the ex-champ directly to the floor. Referee Robert Byrd reached the count of 5 before waving it off at 2:29 as Buthelezi writhed.
Pinol said Dapudong is contractually obligated to defend three times in South Africa due to fight options ceded to promoter Rodney Berman while pursuing the matches with Buthelezi, a native South African. No foe has been finalized for Dapudong’s first defense, tentatively scheduled by the end of the year.
Buthelezi is No. 15 in the IBO’s July rankings and another South African, Miniyakhe Sityata, in No. 18. Only one other South African, Zolani Tete, is ranked by other major sanctioning bodies – No. 6 by the IBF and No. 22 by the WBC. The other recognized champions in the division are Venezuelan Liborio Solis (WBA), Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (WBC) and Argentina’s Omar Narvaez (WBO).
The IBF’s title at 115 pounds is vacant.
“I knew I could do it because I knocked down Gideon in our first fight,” Dapudong said. “I also felt better physically in our second meeting and I was not sluggish like in the first fight. When I connected with that punch, I had a feeling he would not get up. People say it was a lucky punch which knocked out Gideon. In a way they are right, because I am always lucky with that punch.”
Though the title-defense opponent is still in doubt, there’s little hesitation for Dapudong when it comes to his most longed-for foe: No. 6-ranked IBO flyweight Hernan “Tyson” Marquez, who stopped Dapudong in three rounds when the two met for the WBA’s “regular” flyweight belt in July 2011.
That one not only sticks in the fighter’s mind because it was both a failed title shot and a stoppage loss, but because he honestly believes he could have continued when the proceedings were waved off.
Dapudong competed evenly through two rounds with Marquez, a powerful southpaw, and had again held his own in the third before being clipped with a sweeping left hand and ultimately dropped along the ropes with a follow-up left. He quickly rose and appeared coherent as referee Raul Caiz Jr. counted, but looked past the official and walked toward a neutral corner, which prompted Caiz to stop the fight at 1:49 of the round.
Dapudong’s manager, Emmanuel Pinol, claimed not standing still was his man’s undoing.
“I felt that Dapudong committed a big mistake by not looking directly at the eyes of the referee, which is actually the character of this shy boy,” he said. “While he was stunned, Dapudong was not badly hurt, as he stood up even before (Caiz) could count 4.”
Regardless of opposition, Dapudong expects to maintain his peak-level prowess for “five to six” more years, and claims a simple lifestyle – in which he and other members of Team Pinol live and work together on the manager’s farm – will help him retain a physical and competitive edge.
“Pinol is like a father to us,” he said. “We stay in his farm, where we have a small and simple gym just beside the goat house. We work in the farm planting vegetables, which we also eat when we are not training. No one among us ever smoked or drank alcohol. Personally, I believe that there is still a lot of room for improvement in my fighting style. I need to increase my work rate during the fights.”
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This week’s title fight schedule:
WBA bantamweight title – Panama City, Panama
Anselmo Moreno (champion) vs. William Urina (No. 14 contdner)
Moreno (33-2-1, 12 KO): Eleventh title defense; Unbeaten in Panama since 2002 (19-0)
Urina (24-2, 20 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Third fight outside Colombia (0-2)
Fitzbitz says: “Champ was in tough against Mares at 122, but he’s shown consistently capable of handling his business in the next lower weight class. That continues here.” Moreno in 10
WBC bantamweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Shinsuke Yamanaka (champion) vs. Jose Nieves (No. 7 contender)
Yamanaka (18-0-2, 13 KO): Fourth title defense; Eleven of last 12 wins by stoppage
Nieves (22-2-3, 11 KO): First title fight; First fight in Japan
Fitzbitz says: “Japanese incumbent has maintained his KO prowess even as opposition has improved, so he shouldn’t be hugely impacted by veteran southpaw at home.” Yamanaka in 8
WBC flyweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Akira Yaegashi (champion) vs. Oscar Blanquet (No. 11 contender)
Yaegashi (17-3, 9 KO): First title defense; Unbeaten above 108 pounds (2-0)
Blanquet (32-5-1, 23 KO): First title fight; Lost two of last four fights at 112 pounds
Fitzbitz says: “Challenger won big in his lone trip to Japan, but hasn’t fared well in his career when he’s stepped past a certain level of competition. That plus road trip equals loss.” Yaegashi by decision
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full- fledged title-holder -- no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Last week’s picks: 1-0
2013 picks record: 43-25 (63.2 percent)
Overall picks record: 506-177 (74.1 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.