May 24, 2024

GUTS AND GLORY | Reymart Gaballo and his flashpoint paradox

GUTS AND GLORY | Reymart Gaballo and his flashpoint paradox
In an ironic twist of fate, Reymart Gaballo now looks to make it back to the world title picture with a Donaire. (Art by Mitzi Solano/One Sports)
Reymart Gaballo knows what it’s like to be inside the ring against a Donaire. Now, he’s slowly figuring out how important it is to have a Donaire in his corner.


Back in 2021, a young and undefeated Gaballo took on the biggest challenge of his career as he challenged Nonito Donaire Jr. for the World Boxing Council (WBC) bantamweight world title. He won one of the first three rounds but quickly figured he was not yet ready for that level of opposition.


The then 39-year-old Donaire landed a left hook to the liver of Gaballo that forced him to take a knee. The Sanman Promotions fighter tried to stand up but quickly knelt down again as the pain was just too much to bear.


The Filipino Flash won by knockout, his lone successful title defense of the WBC belt before losing his rematch to Naoya Inoue. It was also Gaballo’s first and only loss so far.


Two years and two fights later, Gaballo used the exact same punch to score a knockout against Phai Pharob of Thailand for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) Oriental bantamweight belt. The punch Donaire Jr. knocked him out with is now an added weapon to his arsenal thanks to Donaire Sr.


It was the first combination Gaballo threw in round 1. It was textbook.


Jab-straight-hook. Done and dusted. 32 seconds needed to get the win.


It was a stay busy fight for Gaballo and another opportunity to showcase him to Filipino fans. By recent indications, it looks like another world title shot is up next for him as the challenger to WBO bantamweight champion Jason Moloney of Australia, possibly in the undercard of the lightweight title match between George Kambosos and Vasyl Lomachenko.


This fight, if it pushes through, will be the biggest test in the Gaballo-Donaire partnership.


As of the moment, the Philippines does not have a boxing world champion. And while we still have great fighters, what they might not be having as of late is the right trainer. We know from the exploits of the legendary Manny Pacquiao that the best of fighters will only fulfill their potential when paired with the right trainer. Pacquiao had Freddie Roach and what they had was a pairing for the ages. 


Sure there are other pairings out there that can be good enough to win a world championship, but the hope is that this Gaballo and Donaire unit could be special and, so far, it’s looking good. 


After suffering his first loss to Donaire Jr., Gaballo bounced back with a second round technical knockout win over Ricardo Sueno in General Santos City. Then by February 2023, Donaire Sr. came into the picture. 


Their first fight together was by no means smooth-sailing as they eked out a split decision win against Michael Bravo. This one against Pharob was a better sign of improvement.


“Nung unang laban namin, hindi ko pa talaga nasusundan yung mga gusto niyang ipagawa sa akin,” admitted Gaballo after his dominant victory. “Ngayon mas naiintidihan ko na.”


According to the fighter, he knew he landed a big punch but was expecting his opponent to get up and beat the count.


“Nung pagpasok ng body shot, naramdaman kong lumambot yung tagiliran niya pero akala ko babangon pa siya. Pero masaya ako kasi napasaya ko si coach dahil nasundan namin yung gameplan niya.”


Gaballo barely broke a sweat and took no damage in the fight. This is why it was quite unsurprising that he was already thinking about going back to training.


“Tuloy lang kami sa ensayo. Balik kami agad,” Gaballo said. “Tiwala ako kay coach na hindi niya ako papabayaan, ginagabayan niya ako, at inaalis yung mga bad habits ko. Accuracy, timing, at balance. Yan yung palagi niyang sinasabi sa akin.”


For the trainer’s part, he’s undoubtedly happy with the result as it proves that his fighter listens to him and values his opinion.


“Masaya ako dahil yung sinanay namin sa gym, ginawa niya talaga. Sa unang laban namin, hindi pa niya alam kung ano yung gusto kong gawin niya, pero ngayon nakukuha na niya.”


Donaire raved about the knockout blow as they put a lot of work into sharpening that tool, like how he did it with his son before. 


“Pina-practice talaga namin yung suntok na yun. Pag umangat lang ng konti yung elbow ng kalaban, dun niya patamaan,” he explained. “Maganda rin sana kung humaba yung laban para malabas pa yung ibang na-practice namin pero tinamaan talaga e. Hindi na talaga babangon yun.”


According to the trainer, the year they’ve spent together has made the fighter more cerebral. 


“Yung goal ko talaga is baguihin yung stance niya at improve yung accuracy ng punches niya. Sinasabi ko rin na pag tinamaan ka, umalis ka na muna,” he said. “Dati, pag tinamaan siya, gusto niya gumanti na agad. Sa kagustuhan niyang makabawi, madalas tinatamaan rin siya. Pero ngayon mas matured na siya, mas thinking fighter na.”


Asked what was the best thing about training a talent like Gaballo, Donaire veered away from his power or speed or any physical attributes. 


“Mabait na bata. Nakikinig. Wala akong nagiging problema sa kanya kaya sa tingin ko magiging successful siya.”