In Panama, boxing is the sport that has given more glory to the country. In past ages this sport of flat noses and cauliflower ears gave the Panamanians many joys, but at the moment it is in a coma.
It is surprising that Panama has not had a world champion for more than three years. The last drought was nine years, that is to say, it now fulfilled one third of the previous one.
For Daniel Alonso, Panamanian boxing historian, this moment is critical. “Panamanian boxing has had a decline, has dropped a lot, last year across the country only 20 boxing events were done, it is an indication that something is not working to the march that this requires”.
In an interview with Acan-Efe, Alonso nevertheless showed himself “optimistic, because there are figures like Ricardo ‘Científico’ Núñez, who will soon fight in a tournament, although the moment is not the best”.
“It requires reengineering, innovative ideas, so that the public returns to pay attention to boxing”, he warned.
“Scientist” Nuñez, one of the two high ranked in the World Boxing Association (WBA), recognizes that at this time being a boxer does not encourage anyone in Panama, where there is also no place to train in the best way.
“Curundú is the birthplace of Panamanian boxing, where several champions have emerged, but it is a reality that there are few places where you can practice this sport, which has given the country so much glory”, said the boxer to Acan-Efe during one of his daily workouts.
In the middle of the conversation, it was possible to appreciate the work of gloves of two potential boxers and listen to the blows to the sacks of some who were looking to take off a few pounds before the carnival, the maximum celebration of Panama.
“They have not given such importance to this discipline”, said the boxer, who is preparing for an eliminatory fight against the American Edner Cherry, on March 2 in New York (USA), and is aware that he can be one who can break the drought of champions.
“Thanks God we have been doing things well, we have gotten into the classifications and we are disciplined, the goal is to become a world champion and I have a great commitment to the country”, he said.
Bryan “La Roca” De Gracia is the other high ranked Panamanian. The native of the western province of Chiriquí, was direct to say that “the lack of support leads to boxing is not attractive for new values”.
De Gracia’s words are the echo of those of Roberto “Mano e’ Piedra” Durán, who at the time pointed out that Panama does not escape from the world boxing crisis.
Duran, five times champion of boxing, went further by saying: “The new guys we have are not ready to fight championship”.
Meanwhile, De Gracia pointed out that where boxing falters in Panama is at its bases, in amateur boxing. “So far this year, almost no amateur boxing functions are performed, without that hotbed there will never be professional fighters”, he said.
The problem is bigger, when De Gracia reveals that “the boxers are leaving the sport to go to work, because if they do not see any kind of benefit in this profession, they will have to migrate to another area”.
Panama has added 30 world champions, in different associations. The glorious year of Isthmian boxing was 1972 when there were four world champions simultaneously in different categories: Enrique “Maravilla” Pinder, Ernesto “Ñato” Marcel, Roberto Durán and Alfonso “Peppermint” Frazer.
Since 2000 the new blood came and Panama had champions of the stature of Mauricio “Ñáñara” Martínez, Pedro “Rockero” Alcázar, Santiago Samaniego, Roberto Vásquez, Vicente “El Loco” Mosquera, Celestino Caballero, Anselmo “Chemito” Moreno, Rafael “El Torito” Concepción, Ricardo “El Maestrito” Córdoba and Guillermo “El Felino” Jones.
The last two champions of Panama, number 29 and 30, were Luis Concepción and Jeezrel Corrales, respectively.
“Maestrito” Córdoba, now a coach, agrees with De Gracia, saying that the seedbed has been neglected.
“We went through a bad time in boxing, four to five years of having no support, the government must get involved in this investment, we have to start a tournament every six to seven months”, he said.
The gym Pedro “Rockero” Alcázar in Curundú, where these figures attended to Acan-Efe is one of those cradles of Panamanian boxers. It is located in the middle of a high risk neighborhood in the center of the city and where the welcome is given to you by dogs and a sewer pipe.
Although it is clear that this scenario does not escape the problem of the mismanagement of Panamanian sports, which keeps these places in bad conditions, even so in this gym you can breathe boxing in every corner and you feel the hope of getting out of this dark hole.