Year 2011 was a banner year for Negrense athletes with Donnie Nietes and Juvic Pagunsan, both born in Murcia, Negros Occidental, achieving world-class recognition in their respective disciplines, boxing and golf.
Nietes made Bacolod City and Negros Occidental proud and established his name in record books when he dethroned WBO light flyweight champion Mexican Ramon Garcia, by a unanimous decision, before a home crowd at the University of St. La Salle on October 8, 2011.
Although the victory was tainted with controversy as Garcia’s camp claimed they were robbed of the title, it was a triumphant moment for Negrenses, who hailed Nietes as their new boxing hero.
After reigning in the WBO minimum weight category for more than three years, the victory allowed Nietes to join the elite list of boxers in the world, who managed to rule at least two different weight divisions.
Two month after Nietes made history in boxing, his fellow Murciahanon, golfer Juvic Pagunsan, booked his place in Philippine golf history by claiming the Order of Merit at the UBS Hong Kong Open.
Although he placed 10th overall in the tournament, he earned enough points to replace Korea’s Noh Seugh-yul as Asia’s No. 1 golfer in 2011.
Known for his simple ways and down-to-earth attitude, Pagunsan acknowledged that the Order of Merit title is one of the biggest achievements in his life.
But while he savors his triumph, the topnotch golfer expressed hopes that his No. 1 ranking in Asia will elevate the popularity of golf in the Philippines.
His commitment to the game earns him the respect of his colleagues and friends in the golfing circle of Negros Occidental, among them Third District Board Member Patrick Lacson, who witnessed Pagunsan’s impressive performance at the Singapore Open where he finished first runner-up.
Football made the leap from the doldrums of Philippine sports in 2011, a phenomenon achieved through the soaring popularity of the men’s national team, the Azkals.
The crowd that packed the Panaad Stadium to watch the Azkals play their home game against Mongolia in the AFC Qualifier, affirmed the team’s status as the latest sports heroes of Filipinos.
And the name of Emilio “Chieffy” Caligdong, the wily winger who scored the Azkals’ first goal in the 43rd minutes against Mongolia will be etched forever in the minds and hearts of those who were at the Stadium, night of February 2011.
The estimated 20,000 crowd at the stadium cheered the Azkals as Phil Younghusband made it 2-0 to seal the Philippine victory.
Negros Occidental’s hosting of the 1st PSC-POC National Games in May and the Asia Pacific Softball Tournament at the University of St. La Salle in June, established the status of the province and of Bacolod City as the next sports destination in the country.
The National Games brought to the city an estimated 8,000 guests including national athletes, tournament officials, trainers, team mangers, and guest who participated in the different competition, conducted to tap outstanding athletes who will represent our country in international events. Although the cities of Bago, Talisay and Silay are also co-host of the POC-PSC National Games, 70 percent of the games were played in different venues in Bacolod.
The Asia Pacific Little League Softball Championship in June also brought to Bacolod City athletes from Guam and China.
It was a sweep for all three Philippine teams in the Juniors, Majors, and Big League as they beat the visiting teams from Guam and China to secure another ticket to the World Series in the US.*NAB
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