In late 2009, "Marvelous" Marvin Sonsona was on top of the world. He was the newly-crowned World Boxing Organization super flyweight champion, winning the title via unanimous decision over Puerto Rican Jose Lopez in Ontario, Canada, and was the toast of Philippine boxing. Only 19 at the time, the future seemed bright for the GenSan native.
Yet barely two months after beating Lopez, Sonsona was forced to vacate his title after failing to make the weight limit in his first defense against Mexico's Alejandro Hernandez, also in Ontario. Although the bout ended in a draw, the WBO stripped Sonsona of his belt.
Realizing he had outgrown the super flyweight division, in February 2010, Sonsona invaded the super bantamweight ranks, where he challenged eventual Nonito Donaire victim Wilfredo Vazquez for the vacant WBO title. Fighting in Vazquez's home country of Puerto Rico, Sonsona was easily dispatched in four rounds.
The loss began a tailspin for the youngster, both in and out of the ring. He lost focus and started loafing around, refusing to take his training seriously. He was looking more and more like a one-hit wonder.
His manager Sammy Gello-ani now says it was a case of too much, too soon, the barely 20-year-old unable to handle the trappings of fame and fortune. Sonsona was so out of focus that Gello-ani had no choice but to keep him out of the ring for nearly two years.
"We felt that at the time he won the title, he was very young, and he was still immature," says Gello-ani. "He didn't know how to handle himself. Even the money that he made, he didn't know how to handle it. He was just playing around and enjoying his life."
Sonsona finally snapped out of his stupor and came knocking on Gello-ani's door in Cebu, asking for a second chance. "I asked him, 'You want to become a world champion or not?' He said yes."
"Seryosong seryoso na ako," Sonsona said. Nag-promise ako sa kanila na magbabago na ako. Kasi kung wala akong ginagawa wala naman akong mapapala. Hindi talaga maganda kapag tambay lang. Ito talaga ang career ko, ang boxing.
"The upbringing of the boy is very important," Gello-ani added. "His parents, honestly, cannot control him. The relationship is not there. I know he has the inborn talent, but you have to guide him properly."
In October of last year, Sonsona ended a 20-month lay-off by beating Mexican Carlos Jacobo via unanimous decision in a 10-round bout in Lapu-lapu City. It was a step in the right direction in his quest to become a world champion again.
On Saturday at the Hoops Dome in Lapu-lapu, Sonsona takes a bigger step when he faces Carlos "El Flaco" Fulgencio of the Dominican Republic in a non-title super bantamweight bout over 10 rounds. In Fulgencio, Marvelous Marvin (15-1-1, 12 Kos) will be up against an opponent who is a full two inches taller than him and who has knocked out 12 of his opponents on his way to compiling a 19-5-1 record.
Although his scouting of Fulgencio is limited to a clip on YouTube, Sonsona saw enough to feel confident about his chances. "Magaling sa counter. Labas-pasok ang atake," he said of his opponent.
The Cebu-based manager said if his ward gets past Fulgencio, he will line him up for another fight on May 13 before bringing him to train in the United States with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. The sky's the limit for the young Marvin, and if he keeps his head straight, he'll definitely be one Filipino pug worth watching in the years to come.
The Sonsona-Fulgencio bout is co-main feature of Pinoy Knockout 1, a card put together by Gello-ani's SGG Promotions and Sampson Boxing LLC in cooperation with AKTV, which will air the fights starting at 9PM.
The other main event features rising prospects and WBO no. 2 flyweight contender Froilan "The Sniper" Saludar (14-0-1, 11 KOs) defending his WBO World Youth flyweight championship against Mexico's Alejandro "Terrible" Morales (13-1-1, 7 KOs).
"Froilan is an exceptional fighter," Gello-ani said. "His attitude in training is mature, he has the ambition and he is focused on his career."
A lot is riding on this fight for Saludar, because if he continues his ascent up the flyweight ranks, he might find himself squaring off against reigning WBO flyweight champ Brian Viloria in what could be an interesting title fight featuring two Filipinos.
"Sooner or later, regardless whether Brian Viloria is still world champion, Saludar will be the mandatory challenger," said WBO Asia Pacific chairman Leon Panoncillo. "And they might fight each other."
In the supporting main event, Dan Nazareno of Paranaque (16-7-1) and former amateur standout Adones Cabalquinto of Talaingon, Davao Del Norte (10-0-0, 8 KOs) dispute the vacant Philippine junior welterweight title.
"Cabalquinto is a new prospect," said Gello-ani, "but I know he has a lot of experience from his amateur days, and that will equal the experience of Nazareno."
In another potentially explosive bout, WBO Asia-Pacific Youth super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas of Panabo, Davao (13-0-1, 5 KOs) stakes his crown against Valencia, Bukidnon's Mark Anthony Geraldo (22-4-3).
"This is a very competitive fight," Gello-ani said. "I know Geraldo is a very good fighter, and he can make an upset. I told the manager (of Ancajas), 'Be ready, because whoever wins this fight will have a chance for the higher level (of boxing).'"
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