Daryl Dela Cruz feels no fear against any foe, confident that his hand speed and footwork savvy can always do the trick.
For the fledgling southpaw from Mandaluyong City, these are the tools that could bring him a fortune in prizefighting.
“It’s a dream to become a professional boxer. I know it will take more training and sacrifice to achieve my goal,’’ said Dela Cruz in Filipino after clinching the gold medal in secondary boys boxing at the close of the 2023 Palarong Pambansa on Saturday.
Forged in the stables of the El Tigre Boxing Gym in Mandaluyong City, Dela Cruz ferociously connected with crisp strikes to the body of the rangy Bienjemar Codoy of Central Visayas to seize the bantamweight diadem via split decision.
At one point in the second round, the 18-year-old son of a fisherman from the Samar seaside town of Tambongan, Gandara, sent Codoy to the canvas with a jarring left hook that reverberated across the Marikina City Hall plaza.
“I tried to be accurate in hitting my opponent because I cannot let him take advantage of his longer reach,’’ said Dela Cruz.
Also striking the gold in other weight divisions were Region 12’s Ian Carl Muyso (flyweight) and Zyvyr John Medecilo (minimum weight), bantamweight Tyron Jay Quillosa of Zamboanga, light bantam Christian Pador of Region 10 and pinweight Leo Mhar Lobrido of Western Visayas.
It was Dela Cruz, however, who stole the show.
Big city triumph
One of his handlers told the Inquirer that the incoming Grade 12 student at Andres Bonifacio Integrated School will be ripe for the professional ranks next year when he graduates from high school.
“I want to be like Manny Pacquiao. He’s one of my idols,’’ said Dela Cruz, whose victory capped another triumphant campaign by the Big City bets, who amassed 85 gold medals, 74 silvers and 55 bronzes to rule the Palaro for 21 consecutive editions.
Western Visayas placed second overall with 60 golds, 45 silvers and 44 bronzes and Calabarzon ended up third with a 52-52-57 tally at the end of the week-long games for student-athletes in elementary and high school.
In secondary boys basketball, Jared Bahay fired 29 points to carry Central Visayas to the title by yanking the rug from under heavily favored NCR.
Bahay nailed the pivotal go-ahead basket and Wilhelm Josh Go iced the win, 77-73, before a silenced and stunned pro-Metro Manila crowd at the Marikina Sports Complex.
“That clutch shot was my moment. It was my time,’’ said Bahay after firing 29 points and making three of his four shots from beyond the arc in the first period.
Backing up Bahay, who already committed to the UP Fighting Maroons in the collegiate ranks, were Alden Paul Cainglet and Rezald Joshua Dacalos, who contributed 11 and 10 points each.
Elijah Yusi and Carl Alfanta scored 16 each and Juancho Palanca added 11 for the National University-powered NCR squad.
“I knew we were capable of beating them. We were patient. They are way taller than us, so we maximized our speed and pushed the ball up,’’ said Bahay.
Dethroned NCR managed to avenge the stinging defeat in the boys division by trouncing Central Visayas, 72-53, in the secondary girls category.
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