Randy Petalcorin closes in on world title dream vs. Walter Tello
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MANILA, Philippines – “A good life.”
That’s what Randy Petalcorin says he hopes will come out of his boxing career. That’s not a unique perspective, as a significant portion of professional fighters will freely admit that their willingness to endure a hard life in the ring stems from having survived a hard life out of it.
“I want to have a good house, to have a normal life and eat anything we want,” expounded Petalcorin (26-1-1, 16 knockouts), who is rated No. 10 by THE RING at 108 pounds.
Petalcorin will get a chance to improve his fortune in life on Tuesday, when he faces Panamanian Walter Tello (20-7, 8 KOs) at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai, China for the interim WBA junior flyweight belt.
A win over “The Golden Rat” could earn Petalcorin a shot at the WBA champion Alberto Rossel on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s next clash with Chris Algieri on November 22, which would earn him a purse many times greater than his previous highs.
The lights of the Shanghai skyline shine with far greater optimism than the bullets that illuminated the countryside of his childhood hometown in the Philippine province of Davao del Sur.
For decades, the area surrounding Petalcorin’s home has been ground zero of a struggle between armed rebels known as the New People’s Army and the Philippine military. The sounds of gunfire was the soundtrack to Petalcorin and his five siblings’ childhood.
Petalcorin can remember having his entire family huddled up in their bathroom as rebels ransacked their homes, stealing food and any other valuables they could find.
“Our home was by the river so the NPA would pass through that way always,” remembers the 22-year-old Petalcorin. “There’s guns everywhere, there’s a lot of bad experiences in those places.
Boxing was a ready escape for Petalcorin, who took to the sport after being coaxed by his neighbor, a boxing trainer whose son Rey Loreto would become a fighter and pull off upset wins over former titleholders Pornsawan Porpramook and Nkosinathi Joyi.
Petalcorin, Loreto and their trainer would travel by jeepney to Davao City for amateur bouts, but the trainer often didn’t have enough for all three so one would have to sit on his lap so as not to have to pay an additional fare.
Petalcorin’s amateur career was respectable, consisting of an approximate 80 wins and less than ten losses with one national title. Petalcorin moved to General Santos City, Philippines – the hometown of Pacquiao – to turn pro in 2009 and quickly won his five fights that year by knockout.
He suffered his first loss – a second round knockout – at the beginning of the following year to Marlon Tapales.
“With no excuses, Tapales is a great fighter but [Petalcorin] had one week notice and I had to take the fight. It was the wrong decision,” said Jim Claude Manangquil, who promotes Petalcorin along with Peter Maniatis and Dexter Tan. “He lost and went home to start working in a bakery for a few months, came back to the gym and worked harder.”
Petalcorin has been unbeaten in 17 fights since then, a streak muddled by a technical draw in February of 2013. Petalcorin’s last two fights – against the same Thai opponent – produced early knockouts in Australia, his first two trips abroad.
The paydays haven’t been extraordinary, but they’ve helped a bit. When his sister battled breast cancer last year, the purse from his first clash with Samransak Singmanasak helped pay her medical expenses. Petalcorin says she is now in remission.
Petalcorin, a southpaw, is a skilled boxer-puncher whom Filipino boxing writer Edwin Espejo likened to “a younger Romy Navarette, only with more explosive power.”
Though Petalcorin has an edge in skill and power, he hasn’t fought the level of competition the 27-year-old Tello has. In losing efforts, Tello has faced Rossel, Giovani Segura and Manuel Vargas, plus a number of other regional champions.
“[Petalcorin] has a really good style, he has all the talents to be a star. The one question is how will he show up on the bright lights,” said Manangquil.
Though Tello is the more experienced professional, the fight is aligned for Petalcorin to have the advantage. If he can seize it, a brighter future for himself will be closer than it had ever been.
“This is a make or break for him. If he wins this he lives the rest of his life as a champion and the whole family would be in a better position,” said Manangquil.