Jessie Rosales will fight for his son’s future vs. Jhonny Gonzalez
MANILA, Philippines – Jessie Cris Rosales has a lot to fight for, even if his match this Saturday against Jhonny Gonzalez is a 10-round, gratuitous-title affair.
For one, a win against a former world champion like Gonzalez would help establish the unbeaten but untested Filipino as a player in the junior lightweight division. But more than that, it’d help break the cycle of poverty and ensure his 20-month-year-old son doesn’t have to know the hardship he did growing up.
“It would help my son’s future. I don’t want Emman to experience the hard life I had when I was young,” said Rosales (21-0-1, 9 knockouts), whose fight with the former WBO bantamweight and two-time WBC featherweight titleholder will headline a card in Hidalgo Del Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico, part of a Sabados de Box card on Televisa.
“Everything I am doing right now is for my son and fiancée.”
Growing up in Talibon, Bohol, Philippines — the same town where Nonito Donaire spent his childhood — Rosales would cut school to help his parents plant rice in the fields so their family of seven would get a bigger share of the harvest.
“I sometimes go to the shorelines with my father to get seashells for dinner,” said Rosales, speaking a combination of English and the Filipino language of Bisaya. “Those that you can find by the seaside, small crabs, clams, small fish.”
His father was a painter and his mother a housewife. He dreamed of there being more to life, and like many poor Filipinos turned to boxing. He and his older brother Ciso Morales — a pro himself who lost in one round to WBO bantamweight champ Fernando Montiel in 2010 — constructed an improvised punching bag at their home and began mimicking some of the moves they saw on TV. He then saw this as a way to improve his lot in life.
“[My family said] one can get rich if one gets into boxing. So I’m taking my chances, if we get lucky,” said Rosales.
Rosales left school in the sixth grade, training in the gym and fighting local amateur bouts at town fiestas for small amounts of money.
“Even if I don’t have an income, the manager feeds me. He gave me money or pays me a small amount because I used to clean the gym before,” said Rosales. At age 15 he left home to become a pro boxer, but it wasn’t until three years later, in 2011, when he entered and won the boxing reality show Buhay Boksingero in his home province, that his career picked up. At least, briefly.
Rosales signed with promoter Sammy Gello-ani and remained unbeaten, though on a schedule of constant tuneup bouts for the next few years. Rosales left Gello-ani’s stable and relocated to the Omega Boxing Gym across town in Cebu last December, but says he remains under contract with Gello-ani through 2019. An email to Gello-ani seeking comment was not immediately returned.
What Rosales lacks in experience against Gonzalez, he makes up for in youth. At 25, Rosales is 10 years younger than Gonzalez, who has been a pro since 1999. Gonzalez (63-10, 53 KOs) has won his last five fights, four by knockout, but he’s been in many wars through the years, and Rosales believes he’s catching him at an opportune time.
“He’s getting slower but still you cannot discount him,” said Rosales. “I am very ready to beat him up. I am aiming for a knockout to be sure of a win.”
This is Rosales’ second fight with his new trainer, Julius Jungco, after moving to the Omega Gym. Rosales sparred with hard-hitting prospects Jack Tepora and Tomjune Mangubat, plus seasoned veteran Jason Canoy and others, going 10-12 rounds at a time to prepare for this fight.
Pio Paulo Castillo, who owns the gym, expects Rosales to be better than he’d shown in the past.
“He says this is his first time being handled properly in terms of training program, strategy, strength and conditioning, even his nutrition,” said Castillo.
Suffice it to say, Rosales isn’t going to Mexico for a vacation.
“The truth, I am very optimistic and confident to win against Jhonny Gonzalez, but I have high respects for him,” he says.
Translations by Mars G. Alison
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to THE RING magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @RyanSongalia.