Ryan Songalia

Sonsona America bound after February tuneup

MANILA, Philippines – Once thought to be a lost cause, the career of enigmatic former WBO 115-pound titleholder Marvin Sonsona appears to be back on the upswing.

Sonsona (15-1-1, 12 knockouts) will make his second ring appearance since a 20-month layoff in February against journeyman Carlos Fulgencio (19-5-1, 12 KO), of the Dominican Republic, in a junior featherweight fight at the Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, Philippines.

Sonsona’s domestic promoter Sammy Gello-ani says the date will either be Feb. 4 or 11.

The hard-hitting 21-year-old General Santos City native is currently training with interim trainer Celso Epanto away from his hometown distractions in Gello-ani’s newest compound in the Mindanao province of Misamis Occidental, where he has been based since returning to the ring in October for a unanimous decision victory over Carlos Jacobo.

International matchmaker Sampson Lewkowicz, who made his bones in the business by bringing Manny Pacquiao to America, will afford Sonsona with the same opportunity after February’s match, which he says will result in an April appearance on the Showtime series ShoBox: The New Generation against an opponent to be determined.

Once Sonsona begins campaigning in America, Lewkowicz says that he will move him further away from his stomping grounds – all the way to Oxnard, Calif., that is – to see how “Marvelous Marvin” fits with trainer Gabriel Sarmiento, the Argentinian boxing guru who guides the career of RING middleweight champion  Sergio Martinez.

Both Sonsona and Martinez are southpaws who are advised by Lewkowicz.

“That is one possibility and I like the idea,” said Gello-ani. “I mentioned it to Marvin Sonsona also and he liked the idea of being in America.”

RISE AND FALL

Sonsona became the second youngest major titleholder from the Philippnes when he won the WBO 115-pound title with a hard-fought unanimous decision victory over Jose “Carita” Lopez in September of 2009 at the age of 19.

Sonsona lost the title just two months later when he failed to make the weight prior to drawing with Alejandro Hernandez. Sonsona then lost his undefeated record in his next bout, being stopped in four rounds by Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. in a battle for the vacant WBO 122-pound title.

Rumors circulated about Sonsona’s extracurricular distractions and commitment to the sport as returns were anticipated but subsequently nixed after he disappeared from training camp.

BACK ON TRACK

Gello-ani says that Sonsona has shown renewed discipline to the sport and added maturity since losing the world title, but he acknowledges that it will be a continuous battle to keep Sonsona on track. Gello-ani likens his relationship with Sonsona like a father to a son. At this point, it’d be more appropriate to liken Sonsona to the prodigal son.

“I think he has realized already that he is getting matured,” Gello-ani said. “In fact last time he was asking me, ‘Sir, can I get married?’

“’No, not yet,’ I said, ‘because first you have to choose the right girl.’ He agreed with me.

“He mentioned to me, ‘Maybe I can be more mature if I get married.’ I said: ‘That is not the solution. If you’re getting married with the wrong girl, it could be worse.’

“He listened and said, ‘Oh yeah, I have to have more girlfriends only.’”

When asked to compare Sonsona to Pacquiao when he initially brought him to America to knock out Lehlohonolo Ledwaba for the super bantamweight title in 2001, Lewkowicz says that there was no question Pacquiao was more prepared to deal with success.

“I believe that they have equal talent, with the difference being that Pacquiao was more mature when he came to America. He went through a lot before he came, so he appreciated more the opportunity. He fought in Thailand and lost, he fought in other countries which helped him to mature. It was not the case with Sonsona. That was the biggest issue for him to understand the opportunity. Everything was just given to him before.

“We will try every possibility to bring this kid back to where he was,” continued Lewkowicz. “Someone must be willing to take the torch from Manny Pacquiao and by far I think Sonsona is the one.”

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 ryan@ryansongalia.com. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.

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