Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder are continuing to carry their championship winning form from last year through to this season. Swide profiles the fighters starting this week with lightweight Filipino fighter Charly Suarez.
When we watch a professional or champion boxer fight, it’s easy to forget that what we are witnessing is the tip of the iceberg. For every fighter that gets to earn a living in the ring, there are many, many more who never make it past amateur level, many who just box for sport, those who coach and those who watch. For every pro fighter we get to see, there is a family, a community, a boxing culture behind them. When Charly Suarez fights for Dolce&Gabbana Italia Thunder, he represents the boxing culture of the Philippines. As the only Filipino in a team, dominated by Italians, Suarez brings definitely something different to the table. He is a pure fighter in the Philippine tradition.
Suarez hails from Asuncion in the province of Davao del Nord. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect of the rural Philippines. In the shadow of the Leonard Kniaseff volcano the province’s inhabitants subsist primarily on agricultural means, tourist flock to the area’s pristine sandy white beaches, while the Pearl Farm Beach Resort, a former functioning pearl farm, is a big draw. Idyllic as it sounds, poverty rules and young people have very few options, often the best they can hope for is immigration. It is well known that an emigrant form the Philippines will support entire families on his or her meagre wages. So to many the sport of boxing is a glimmer of hope.
‘Boxing is secondary to Basketball in my hometown,’ explains Suarez. ‘But it’s still a popular pastime. I was relatively late coming to the sport, I was already 15 years old, but father was a good teacher, he taught me the basics’. The sport was introduced to the islands by the Americans in 1898 as a way to give the inhabitants discipline and partly to try and mitigate against the national pastime of ‘cock fighting’, which the Americans saw as cruel and delinquent. The natives excelled at the sport, mostly because of the existence of a native sport called “pangamot” (bare-fist).
While the Philippines have given the world so many great boxers, form Pancho Villa, to Gabriel Elorde and of course global superstar Manny Pacquiao and Suarez has a lot in common with these fighters, not only as a pound for pound fighter, who competes in the lower weight categories but also in the Philippine characteristics of strong religious faith. “For me, you first need to believe in God. Then you have to be willing to make sacrifices for the good of your family and only strong determination will get you your goals in your life.
While Pacquiao is the single biggest star/brand in the Philippines, he remains very humble and local community-focused, investing in his roots and not forgetting where he came from, strong religious faith is as much a trademark feature as his speed and footwork, Suarez is no different. When asked what he might be doing were he not a boxer, Suarez defers to his ‘gift’, saying: “Maybe I would have worked in the bank or something similar, but I think God gave me a wonderful talent like this”.
When asked whether or not he would like his children the box, the somewhat surprising answer is “No I don’t want them to box”. Perhaps it’s indicative of a culture in which boxing is seen as a ‘way out’ and once a better standard of living is achieved for your family, it should be used to further progress in education and other ways to propagate success.