Wednesday, March 22, 2023  |



Best I Faced: Gerry Penalosa


Skilled boxer-puncher Gerry Penalosa became the first Filipino to win a world title at junior bantamweight. He regularly fought on the road, and in the twilight of his career added a second world title up at bantamweight.

Geronimo Penalosa was born on August 7, 1972 in San Carlos City, Philippines. He was one of six children and grew up in a boxing family. Penalosa’s father, Carl, competed with middling success in the 1960s, and his elder brothers also boxed; Dodie Boy was a two-weight world titleholder in the 1980s and Jonathan lost in his own world title bid.

“It was an advantage being from a famous boxing family,” Penalosa told The Ring. “But there was a lot of pressure because people were expecting too much.”

Penalosa began boxing when he was 14 years old. He became a member of the national team within two years and won gold at the Indonesian Cup. However, after losing at the Olympic trials, Penalosa’s teammates felt so aggrieved that they actually walked out of the tournament.

After going 60-2 in the unpaid ranks, the eager 16-year-old made his professional debut in May 1989. He won 19 of his first 20 bouts – a draw was the lone blemish – but tasted defeat when he dropped a split decision to his vastly more experienced countryman Samuel Duran in August 1992.

To his credit, Penalosa bounced back extremely well and even managed to avenge Dodie Boy’s losses to former flyweight titleholder Rolando Bohol and junior flyweight titleholder Rolando Pascua, en route to his own world title bout.

Penalosa’s record was an impressive (35-1) when he was made mandatory challenger to WBC titleholder Hiroshi Kawashima. The fight took place in February 1997 at the Kokugikan in Tokyo and it proved to be a changing of the guard. Penalosa shocked the long-reigning Japanese star by split decision.

Penalosa with superstar countryman Manny Pacquiao. Photo courtesy of Gerry Penalosa

Looking back, he feels this was his proudest moment because as well as becoming a world champion for the first time, he also graduated college with a Bachelor of Science in criminology.

Penalosa made three successful defenses before being enticed over to Seoul, South Korea in August 1998 to take on In Joo Cho. Penalosa dropped a razor-thin split decision and 16 months later, a rematch produced the same result.

Once again, a determined Penalosa rebounded with three solid wins to put himself in position to challenge Cho conqueror Masamori Tokuyama in September 2001. A unanimous decision loss to the Japan-born Korean was close enough to warrant a rematch and Penalosa came agonizingly close once again, dropping a split decision.

“Those fights were controversial,” recalled the former titleholder. “After the first fights (with Cho and Tokuyama), (then-WBC president) Jose Sulaiman ordered rematches. Maybe he was not happy with the judging.”

Penalosa finally moved north to bantamweight but was semi-active, fighting five times over the next four years. Surprisingly, he was offered a title shot all the way up at junior featherweight but dropped a wide decision to WBO titleholder Daniel Ponce De Leon.

Because of his game effort against a much bigger man, Penalosa was then given a shot at WBO bantamweight titleholder Jhonny Gonzalez in August 2007 in Sacramento. Trailing on the scorecards, lady luck finally smiled on Penalosa when he downed the Mexican for the count with a perfect bodyshot. It was an incredible victory.

The Filipino star made one defense, vacated his title and rolled the dice against the much bigger Juan Manuel Lopez, once again for the WBO 122-pound title. Penalosa was pulled out of the fight in the ninth, his only stoppage loss.

The former two-weight world titleholder fought twice more before retiring at 38 with a record of (55-8-2, 37 knockouts).

For much of his career, Penalosa was under the stewardship of trainer Freddie Roach who lavished praise on his former fighter, describing him as “the most-skilled Filipino boxer.”

Penalosa with his family. Photo courtesy of Gerry Penalosa

Now 46, Penalosa is married and lives in Manila. He has two children and his nephew’s Dodie Boy Jr. (19-0, 15 KOs) and Dave (15-1, 11 KOs) continue the family tradition. He owns 15 boxing gyms and a construction company.

Penalosa graciously took time to speak to The Ring about the best he fought in 10 key categories.

Jhonny Gonzalez: It was hard to get inside because of his jab and he was tall at bantamweight. He used his jab to keep his distance and so he can control throw his favorite punch, the right cross.

Hiroshi Kawashima: He rolled with my punches and was quick. He was a southpaw and had good footwork, handspeed and head movement.

In Joo Cho: It was hard to counter against him because of his height and fast hands. He had no intention to brawl. He kept his distance and used his handspeed.

Cho: He was too fast and had long legs. German Meraz kept running and focused on how to survive and last the distance.

Rolando Bohol: I hit him hard, but he was still standing and always used his experience.

Rolando Pascuar: He was born with talent. He had one plan to be a tricky boxer. I stopped him in eight rounds, I pressured him and made him work, and in the later rounds he was tired and done.

Daniel Ponce De Leon: Ponce De Leon and Juanma Lopez, they hit me hard. They were both heavier than me, that’s why. I would pick Ponce De Leon.

Gonzalez: He could KO you with one punch, he is tall and big at bantamweight. Gonzalez had the best right cross.

Kawashima: He gave me my hardest fight; he was untouchable, a complete fighter. I beat him because I was hungrier than him and in tip-top condition.

Gonzalez: He is a complete fighter; can fight inside or outside and has power. I was lucky that night. My best wins were against Kawashima and Gonzalez.


Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright



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