By JM Siasat
MANILA, Philippines- Fast rising Filipino fighter and interim WBO Asia Pacific light welterweight titleholder Jay Solmiano will have his hands full in April 14 when he battles Keita Obara for the light welterweight OPBF title in Japan. Solmiano whose been getting recognition and accolades in recent times from the Philippine boxing community did not have easy both inside and outside the ring.
The 27-year-old San Andres, Catanduanes native's background is in many ways a familiar tale. Solmiano (17-2-1, 13 knockouts) was born to a family of 7 and was forced to dropout of school due to poverty and much discouragement of his own parents. Solmiano still remember the words uttered by his dad that motivated him to work and be where he's at today.
"My father told me not to go to school anymore because I'm not capable of making money even as a kundoktor (bus assistant)," said Solmiano who only managed to reach 3rd year high school. "My parents were a young couple back then who only saw us as a burden. My upbringing taught me how to be tough".
Solmiano who started to box at the late age of 17, kept those words to himself and used it to further fuel his hunger to succeed. Never short of courage, Solmiano braved travelling to Manila with a simple intent of getting a job and make an honest leaving. Solmiano eventually found himself in a boxing gym, trying out to be a professional boxer. And though he was admitted to the gym, it was not as a boxer but rather as a janitor.
Solmiano was a former competitor in amateur track and field, before he knows it, his experience became an important tool as it helped him with stamina to box. While working as a janitor, Solmiano from time to time try his hands in boxing, and since he had no trainer to learn from, he only imitated professional boxers surrounding him, doing self-taught training.
His chance at a boxing career came alive in 2007, when he was handpicked as a late replacement against Michael Rosal in a boxing event in Parañaque city. Solmiano, who openly admits to have never thought he'll be a boxer managed to win his professional debut via split decision. He has since then decided to take his rightful boxing path. "I never thought I'll be a boxer," said Solmiano. "All I wanted was to know the feeling of how it is to be a professional boxer".
Solmiano eventually had to leave his janitorial job in his quest for boxing glory and is now under the watchful eye of his manager, Ryan Gabriel. Solmiano currently works solely as a professional boxer, living in a small studio type apartment with 9 other boxers and a trainer.
His OPBF title shot against Obara (10-1, 9 knockouts) is not his first. In 2011, Solmiano was given a shot at the OPBF lightweight title in Japan against Nihito Arakawa. It was also then that he tasted his first professional defeat though he feels that it was a fight he won and dominated for 12 rounds.
"I lost a lot of respect in professional boxing when I lost that fight," recalls Solmiano who not only lost respect but also lost self-esteem and confidence after the defeat. "I got robbed in Japan. I reviewed the tape over and over and told myself, how could have I lost that fight? I can accept defeat if I was truly defeated. What I can't accept is a loss when I know I won".
A jump to the light welterweight division and seven more fights after his failed title bid in Japan, Solmiano's confidence is back and is much focused in training heading to his second OPBF title attempt. "When I moved up in weight, my mindset was not to let the judges decide the outcome of my fights," said Solmiano whose punching power was developed in training. "I will work to get a knockout".
Solmiano is now being looked at as one of the most promising fighters in the country. With 20 professional bouts to date, Solmiano's concern at the moment is to simply focus in training and provide whatever he can to his family, saying he now has a good relationship with his parents.
"I'm yet to absorb everything that's happening to my boxing career, I'm just trying to enjoy while doing this," said Solmiano. "My training mentality is to always be twice better than my opponent. People tell me that I can be a world champion, I tell them, let's see what the lord will provide me. If this is really for me then I'm not letting it go. I will fight to the end".
JM Siasat is a freelance boxing journalist whose work can be seen on Boxingscene.com and Rappler. He can be reached at [email protected]