Roberto Jalnaiz attends to son Rafael at the recent ABAP meet in Puerto Princesa.

Two-time Olympian Roberto Jalnaiz’s sons Rafael, 11, and Roberto Miguel, 12, bagged gold medals to signify the emergence of a new generation of elite fighters at the recent Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP) National Youth Open Championships in Puerto Princesa.

The Jalnaiz kids won four bouts in a row to sweep their assignments, raising high hopes for a bright future in Philippine boxing.

Rafael claimed the 30-kilogram vacuumweight title while Roberto Miguel took the 32-kilogram antweight crown, both in the kids 11-12 age group. They were untouchable in the five-day competition that drew 222 simonpures from all over the country.

Both Jalnaiz boys got off to a scorching start with Rafael outpointing hometowner Kent Jasper Fuentes, 11-5, and Roberto Miguel decisioning Jeffrey Stella of Mandaue, 13-3. Rafael went on to upset Mindanao leg champion Robert Paradero of Bukidnon, 9-6, and eventually halted Rhezon Tarona of Mandaue in the finals.

Jalnaiz, 43, introduced his sons to boxing when they were barely eight. He never encouraged them to take up the sport but it was clearly in their blood.

“When they were younger, they used to fight all the time so I decided to bring them to the gym and teach them the proper way,” said Jalnaiz, the country’s only gold medalist at the 1990 Beijing Asian Games. “I started with the basics. I taught them footwork, defense, combinations and delivery. The kids have a lot of heart. They like boxing. Rafael wants to be a pro. Roberto wants to be an Olympian. I’ll teach them everything I know.”

Jalnaiz said his long years of experience as an amateur boxer will help the kids grow up to be champions in the mold of Cuban and Russian fighters.

“I fought in two Olympics and I saw how the Cubans and Russians move – that’s how I want my kids to fight, like the Cubans and the Russians,” said Jalnaiz, a 1991 Southeast Asian Games gold medalist. “Right now, I’m very impressed with their development. They’re better than I was at their age. They know their distance, they slip and counter. They’re constantly training. They’re very disciplined. They do push-ups to improve their power. They shadow-box and do mitts like they’re in the national team. I want them to be scientific boxers. I make sure they’re always in top condition and I look after what they eat – vegetables, beef, fruits and occasionally, Jollibee hamburgers.”

Jalnaiz said while he will support his sons’ boxing ambitions, it won’t mean lowering education as a priority.

“I finished only up to second year high school,” said Jalnaiz. “Roberto Miguel is in Grade 6 and Rafael, in Grade 5. I want them to finish college before they turn pro, if ever. My wife Mary Joy finished at the Ateneo de Cagayan and I want the boys to earn a degree like their mother.”

Jalnaiz’s wife also has boxing roots. Her father Nick Galarte was former Oriental champion Jess Maca’s first manager and used to own a stable of ranked fighters. She was in Puerto Princesa cheering her sons to victory at ringside.

Even as Jalnaiz is immersed in training his sons, he and his wife always make time for their oldest child, 18-year-old daughter Asian Marie.

Jalnaiz said he trains over 30 amateur fighters, whose ages range from nine to 17, at the Pelaez Sports Center in Cagayan de Oro. His boxing program is supported by Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno.

“Twice a month, we hold what we call the ‘Rumble at the Capitol,’ something like ‘Boxing at the Park’,” said Jalnaiz. “It’s Gov. Moreno’s grassroots project to discover young, promising fighters.”

Since retiring from amateur boxing in 1992, Jalnaiz has been involved in training fighters, many of whom became internationalists and pros including Violito Payla, Roel Laguna, Genebert Basadre, Jason Pagara and Milan Melindo. Through the years, Jalnaiz said he has trained over 300 fighters.

article By Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star)

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