Magramo battles Japanese for WBO flyweight crown

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    WEIGH-IN: Magramo easily makes the weight limit.

    AFTER six postponements and seven anxious months of waiting, Giemel Magramo finally gets the world title shot he has been craving for when he steps into the ring of the famed Korakuen Hall in Tokyo today.

    The power-punching Magramo will fight Japanese slugger Junto Nakatani at the Japanese boxing mecca for the World Boxing Organization flyweight crown left vacant last February by Kosei Tanaka, who has moved up in weight.

    “Gigil na po akong makalaban ‘yong Hapones. Matagal akong nag-hintay, nag-ensayo at nag-sakripisyo upang mabigyan ng pagkakataong ito,” said Magramo, 26, who boasts a record of 24 wins, 20 by knockout, against one loss, in an overseas interview on the eve of his title fight.

    Standing three inches taller than his Pinoy foe at 5-foot-7 ½, the unbeaten Nakatani, 22, packs a punch, having knocked out 15 of his 20 previous opponents.

    Nakatani’s last two victims were Filipinos: Milan Melindo and Philip Luis Cuerdo, whom he stopped in the sixth and first rounds, respectively, last year at the Korakuen Hall.

    It will be a historic match for Magramo, whose trainer-father Melvin was a former Orient Pacific flyweight champion. He is the first foreign boxer to fight in the Land of the Rising Sun since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, according to promoter Liza Elorde.

    Elorde is the wife of Johnny Elorde, the son of the late boxing legend Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, who is the chief cornerman of the Pinoy fighter, with the elder Magramo as his deputy.

    Both boxers successfully made the 112-pound limit at the official weigh-in yesterday, with Magramo tipping the scales at 111.5 pounds while the tall and lanky Nakatani weighed 111.7 pounds.

    The two will slug it out around 8:30 p.m. in Japan (7:30 p.m. in Manila) as the headliners of the boxing card organized by revered Japanese promoter Akihiko Honda, who handled the late legendary World Boxing Association flyweight champion Masao Ohba.

    “Once again we have a chance for a world title. We wish Magramo and the Elorde boxing stable the best. We hope that Giemel is added to the distinguished list of Filipino world boxing champions,” said Games Amusements Board chairman Baham Mitra. “His victory during the pandemic will be a big push for professional boxing in the Philippines.”

    “Gutom talaga si Giemel. He is hungry to win the title. May puso at mahilig mag-ensayo,” noted Mrs. Elorde, the daughter-in-law of the late matriarch of the Elorde boxing clan, Laura, who passed away last May at the age of 92.

    The boxer and his entourage of five have been cooped up for the last two weeks at the spacious Hotel Grand Palace, a 10-minute stroll from the fight venue, occupying the entire 22nd floor, and have not been allowed to go out of its premises since they arrived, according to Johnny Elorde.

    “Our gym is also right inside the hotel while Giemel does his roadwork on the runway of our floor,” said Elorde, adding that Honda is paying $5,000 (roughly P241,650) daily so they could have the floor to themselves and another $1,000 (P48,330) for the gym’s use.

    The Elorde couple recounted the hardships that they underwent just to have Magramo get this rare opportunity of a crack at a world title crack under the prevailing worldwide conditions.

    “Everything was day-to-day until last month when we heard from promoter Honda that the title fight will push through on Nov. 6,” Mrs. Elorde said. “We had to meet a lot of documentary and health requirements just to get Giemel here.”

    Johnny Elorde said they would offset the height and reach advantage of Nakatani by fighting close range, work on the body and press the Japanese fighter to avoid the same fate suffered by his two previous Pinoy foes.

    But should Nakatani decide to slug it out with his ward “di mas maganda ang magiging laban. ‘Yon ang gusto ni Giemel at hindi magtatagal ito,” according to Elorde.

    “Gusto ko talaga mapabagsak ‘yong Hapones. Kung kakayanin gagawin ko,” the boxer said. “Eto ay para sa kinabukasan ng pamilya ko at kay Mama Laura.”