Sunday, November 22, 2009

Interview with the "Cinderella Man"

[Following is my interview with Michael Domingo - one of the winners of the recent Boxing World Cup in 2008. Also published originally on 4/17/08]

Talking with Michael Domingo, “The Cinderella Man” story keeps flashing back in my head. Yeah, we know the story. Down-out fighter and almost forgotten gets a break and makes the most of it. He's fighting for his family, fighting for respect, and fighting for other hopeless people like us.

Born in August 23, 1979, in a small village of Lebak, Sultan Kudarat, Michael Domingo confessed of an almost misspent teenage life, gang stuff and all that. Until a concerned neighbor observed him fight with other kids, he went to him and gave him an advice that would propel him to his career in boxing. At 14, the neighbor took him to Davao for an amateur boxing where he got his first ring experience. He was fitted with an improvised “maong” made gloves (his first time being fitted with gloves) and won the fight.

The years that followed were hodge-podge events of his life complete with gang outing, amateur boxing stints, an attempt to a military life that didn't seemed to fit him, and some labor works earning P50/day for a living.

At 20, he turned pro and signed a contract to his first manager Gingging Polancos who brought him to his first professional fight “Knockout” in Manila. Having tasted the stage of professional boxing, he noticed lapses and loopholes of his preparation and training compared to his opponents. Though not bereft of talent, he got his share of ups and downs in his early career and settled for a modest record of 22-12-2.

Not satisfied with his career, he believed he got enormous power within him yet to be unleashed. He experienced that one time in a man's life when he paused for a moment and considered his options and prospects in life. The chance came when he got the opportunity to talk to Antonio A. Aldeguer. Actually, he met the boxing baron a year ago when he spent a day in the ALA Gym. He saw what every boxers dream of – complete equipments, competent trainers, discipline and a sense of belongingness. But he had second thoughts that made him sad. He thought he is not worthy of the place because he was not good enough. His records say so. It took him a year to muster courage and talked to Edito Villamor who brought him to the presence of Antonio Aldeguer and one thing leads to another. In the next four years, he wins almost all his fights except in France where he charged it to the kind of food they eat there. He meant, he was not use to potatoes and soup before a big fight. He asked for rice but...well you got the picture.

Following are the five questions this writer asked to Michael:

Will you tell us something about your training in the ALA Gym?

“Training in ALA Gym,” he says in vernacular, “is like spending time in a boxer's dream. They have what it takes to be the best boxer that you can be - great equipments, good backing and discipline. It is up to me to do my part in the process.”

What was your lowest point as boxer and your highest point?

My lowest point is when I started thinking I am not a good boxer. It was tough years. But everything has changed now with no small thanks to ALA Gym.
My highest points are when I knocked down Montiel in the Araneta and when I won the World Cup against an unbeaten Mexican Miguel Roman. It was great. But the best part is when Sir ALA came to me before the fight, saying I have to win. “Dauga ha. This is your chance or else..”

Let's talk about your style and attitude. Best boxers copy some style from great boxers. Who are your influences in terms of style and character in and outside the ring?

When I was an amateur, I watched with great delight everytime Mike Tyson fights. I dreamed to be like him and fight like how he fights. Later, I realized he's far different from me. Tyson fights in heavyweight and I am in smaller scale and fight in different approaches. Then, I saw good fights of Z Gorres, Boom-Boom, AJ Banal, and Jerry Penalosa, and I said to myself, hey, I want to be like them too...

I am a “slugger fighter”. I like the smart and scientific approach of fighting. ALA trainers taught me that and I'm honing it everyday. Who I idolized really in the present best fighter today is Jerry Penalosa. Dili lang sya maayo sa boxing, maayo sad siya nga tawo. Humble ba. (He's not just good in boxing, he's a good man too. A humble person.)

We read in the papers and on the internet saying that they saw now a much improved Michael Domingo, adding you are a “late-bloomer” boxer with lots of promise. What can you say to that?

[Laughs] That's true. When I landed in ALA Gym it was a dream come true to me. I really wanted to be trained by best trainers and to be with the best fighters. Everyday I trained with good people with real discipline. And they make me hunger to do more in my training and perfect my style. There was a time when instead of doing the required miles for jogging everyday, I doubled and tripled it as my stamina would take me.

Late bloomer, yes, if you want to call me that. And I am just doing my best.

Fredie Roach said you could probably be the best fighter in the ALA Gym. What is your reaction?

Really? I don't know that.

[The said fight will be announced soon.]

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