Former junior bantamweight and bantamweight beltholder Gerry Penalosa fought 10 major titleholders during his excellent 21-year pro career. Who does the 40-year-old Filipino standout think were the best he faced?
It has been a little over a year since Gerry Penalosa hung up his gloves for good, retiring from professional boxing with a record of 55-8-2 (37 knockouts) following a 21-year career. He admits that he misses the bright lights sometimes, but says that life after boxing has afforded him ample time for his other passions in life.
“I'm happy even if I'm not in the ring because I'm with my family 24 hours a day,” said Penalosa, a former junior bantamweight and bantamweight titleholder. “The good thing is that I'm content with what I've achieved.”
Penalosa, now 40, is on the short list of the greatest fighters to come out of the Philippines. After winning his first world title in 1997 with a split-decision of Hiroshi Kawashima, Penalosa made three defenses before losing the title by a close split-decision to In-Joo Cho in his opponent's hometown in South Korea the following year.
It would be nine long years, when Penalosa came from behind to knock Jhonny Gonzalez out with one body punch, before he would once again raise a major title (the WBO bantamweight belt) above his head. In addition, Penalosa also faced top fighters Juan Manuel Lopez, Eric Morel, Daniel Ponce De Leon, Masamori Tokuyama and Ratanachai Singwancha.
Since retiring, Penalosa has switched his focus to the business side of the sport. The San Carlos City, Philippines native owns a chain of boxing gyms throughout the Metro Manila region and is the president of GerryPens Promotions, which he has used to move the careers of his nephew Dodie Boy Penalosa Jr., as well as Michael Farenas (33-3-3, 26 KOs).
Penalosa Jr. (7-0, 7 KOs), who is the son of the former junior flyweight and flyweight titleholder Dodie Boy Penalosa Sr.,will face Thailand's Superjames Singmanasak (1-4) this Saturday at the Recom Dome in Caloocan City, Philippines. The bout will be televised by Filipino television station GMA 7.
For Penalosa, he's taking the good with the bad of working on the other side of the sport.
“I was so pampered when I was a fighter. Now, I'm the one pampering the fighters,” said Penalosa with a laugh.
Best Overall: Jhonny Gonzalez - He's tall, strong and fast. I didn't like his style. I just happened to win that fight because I practiced hard and punished myself in the gym.
Before the fight, when Golden Boy told my manager Billy Keane that I will fight him next, I knew it would be a hard fight. I put it in my mind that he's a strong, hard puncher so I knew I needed to prepare for this fight because my life was in danger. But when the fight was close, I gained more confidence because I was ready. I looked at him at the weigh-in and he looked drained and thin. I said, “Oh, I think this is my time because he's not 100 percent, mentally and physically.” In the beginning of the rounds, I told myself that (being outworked) was just temporary, later on I will kill him.
Best Puncher: Gonzalez - When he hit me, I really felt it. I really appreciated his power.
Best Defense: In-Joo Cho - It was hard to hit him. He runs and he's tall for the weight at super flyweight. He was like 5-foot-8. I didn't like that style, he's tall and I'm short. It's hard for me. I was fighting in his hometown so what he did is just run and run without punching and he got all the judges to give it to him.
Fastest hands/feet: Cho - He uses his foot work and (his) hand speed (is) very good. Jhonny Gonzalez also had good footwork.
Best Chin: Hiroshi Kawashima - Aside from his good chin, he was very talented. He really is a strategic boxer, one of the best I'd seen. It just happened that I won the fight because I fought the right fight. I trained hard for that fight because I was very, very hungry. No one could have beat me that night. I was a kid and being a champion was my ambition in life. I couldn't afford to lose it.
Best Jab: Gonzalez
Smartest/Strongest: Juan Manuel Lopez - He's too big for me and he knows that if he uses his strength, he would wear me down because he's bigger than me. He had a good plan and it just wasn't our night.
Photos / Craig Bennett
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News and the Filipino Reporter newspaper in New York City. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia