MANILA – Newly crowned International Boxing Organization flyweight champion Dave Apolinario made his way back home following his successful title conquest in East London, South Africa on Saturday (Philippine Time).
Apolinario arrived Wednesday at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 in Pasay where he was met by his manager, Mike Pelayo, as well as officials from the Games and Amusements Board (GAB).
Ermar Benitez, GAB's officer-in-charge, and Jackie Ornido, the agency's Officer-in-Charge for contact sports division, handed a plaque of commendation to Apolinario for bringing glory to the country when he defeated South African opponent Gideon Buthelezi via a first-round knockout.
"Super saya ko kasi malayo ng nilabanan natin, sa South Africa. Sobrang saya natin kasi kahit papaano, 'di naman natin pinapakialaman kahit malayo ang byahe. Ang importante, makuha natin 'yung belt (I'm super happy because I fought in a faraway place, South Africa. I'm very happy. I didn't care how far I had to travel. The important thing is we get the belt)," Apolinario, who is undefeated in 17 fights, 12 of them by knockout, said in an interview.
"We are excited about Philippine professional boxing. Not only is it recovering from the effects of the pandemic, but it is also invigorated by the recent victories of our champions," said Benitez.
The 23-year-old Apolinario, together with Benitez, Ornido, and other officials, then paid a courtesy call on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the President’s Hall in Malacañang Palace.
The President thanked Apolinario for showing that Filipinos are “world-class”.
“Nagpapasalamat ang buong Pilipinas sa'yo. Pinasikat mo nanaman kami at gusto namin iwagayway ulit ang ating bandila para mag-celebrate (The entire Philipines is thanking you. You brought us fame and we want to wave our flag to celebrate),” Marcos said during their meeting.
The boxing champ handed a pair of signed gloves to Marcos.
In return, the President signed another pair of gloves for Apolinario and gave him a commemorative gold coin.
Apolinario dedicated his achievement to his late mother, Lita, who died from complications of the rabies virus in March.
"Sayang nga. Hindi niya naabutan. Pero alam ko po na masayang-masaya siya ngayon sa nangyari (What a pity. She didn’t see my win anymore. But I know she’s very happy for me)," said Apolinario, who will go home to Maasim, Sarangani next week.
Apolinario had to stop training for three months when he found out what happened to his mother, who was bitten by a dog but did not get treatment.
What was suspected as urinary tract infection turned out to be the late stages of rabies complications.
Pelayo said Apolinario will also pay a visit to the Senate on Monday to receive a resolution commending him for his title conquest.
Pelayo added that Apolinario rose in the world rankings of at least one other boxing organization and is now ranked third in the 112-pound division by the World Boxing Association (WBA).
This means he could be primed for a unification bout against reigning WBA champ Artem Dalakian of Ukraine.
"Pwede, kahit si (Sunny) Edwards (I am okay with it even with Edwards)," said Apolinario, referring to the International Boxing Federation holder from Britain.
"Any world champion. Kung sino gustong lumaban kay Dave Apolinario, let's bring it on. Kasi si Dave, always born ready. Walang tago-tago, laban kung laban kung sino man sila (Whoever wants to fight with Dave Apolinario. Because Dave is always ready. No evading, ready to brawl, whoever they are) )," Pelayo said. (with reports from Azer N. Parrocha/PNA)