By JM Siasat
PARANAQUE, Philippines- Boxing comes from many sorts of motivation, boxers in general see the sport as their main ticket to a gainful and comfortable life. In some cases, boxing has become a profession to those who needed a sport to fall back on. In the case of Philippine featherweight champion, Vinvin Rufino (34-15-3, 16KO), boxing was more of a second choice.
The 32-year-old native of Sapi-an, Capiz, initially dreamed of becoming a professional basketball player but entered in the brutal sport of boxing after much urging from his uncle and grandfather. Born to a family of 12 siblings, Rufino started to box at the young age of 13. Rufino only had 11 amateur bouts under his belt when decided to turn pro in 2000.
“My uncle and grandfather brought me here (Elorde Gym in Parañaque) when I was 18 years old to have a try-out,” recalls Rufino. “I knocked my opponent out in my first try then I was asked to come back again after 3 days. On my second try, I knocked my opponent out again”.
Manager/promoter Johnny Elorde has since taken the left-handed Rufino under his wing and was provided a place to live for 8 years. Rufino, who is now a father of 3, eventually had to move out and tend to his family. When no fight is scheduled, Rufino stays fit and busy by working as a boxing instructor to paying students in the Elorde gym, it is also through this job that he tries to make ends meet to pay his family expenses.
Rufino had his fair share of ups and downs in his 14 years as a professional boxer. A controversial loss against Naoki Matsuda in 2010 on his first bid for the OPBF title and another controversial defeat against Sipho Taliwe for the WBC International featherweight title in the same year left Rufino doubting where his career was heading.
With his self-belief intact and spirit unbroken, Rufino went on with his career for the sake of his family, hoping to get another title shot along the way. This time around, his team is leaving no stone unturned in preparation for his second OPBF featherweight title attempt as they sparred with more than a hundred rounds before heading to Japan.
“When I fought in October last year, all I’m thinking of is this OPBF title shot. I’ve been training and working hard for this, because to me, this is my last shot at a title” said Rufino who earned his title shot by being the #1 contender.
Rufino’s OPBF featherweight title bid will take place on March 24, 2014 at the Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. Like his previous heartbreaks, this title fight is yet again being held on his opponent’s home soil. Rufino’s trainer, Pederito Laurente, who at one point trained world champions Koki and Daiki Kameda is still confident of their chances given the familiar odds and circumstance.
“We have a huge chance of taking home the title as long as Vinvin won’t be overconfident,” says Laurente who also took the time in studying their opponent’s style on tape. “We will work on getting a KO but at the same time rack up points should it go the distance”.
At 32 years old, Rufino has a very realistic mindset and expectations as to where his career is going. He doesn’t see himself getting a world title shot anytime soon, but if given the chance, he would want to mix it up with Orlando Salido (41-12-2, 28KO).
“I’ll give it (boxing) two more years and I’ll retire. I’ll save money and open up my own business (piggery and small grocery)” said Rufino, whose wife also urges him to immediately stop boxing.
Rufino is set to take home $5,000 for this fight, a portion of which will be immediately invested in opening a small business.
JM Siasat is a freelance sports journalist whose work can be seen on Boxingscene.com and Rappler. He can be reached at [email protected]