For many years, veteran international boxing referee and judge Silvestre Abainza has made his country proud as one of the world’s top arbiters, working in fights all over the globe wherever the sound of the bell brought him.
Now at 67, Abainza isn’t sure if he can continue doing what he loves.
As we went to press, Abainza was scheduled to undergo an angiogram at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan on Friday. Once the extent of blockages in his arteries is determined, angioplasty is the next procedure. Abainza said Dr. Andrew Carreon suspects blockages in at least two valves which is the reason why he easily tires. He was scheduled to work the Romero Duno-Kuldeep Dhanda fight at the Midas Hotel and Casino in Pasay City last Saturday but opted out because of his health.
“Madali akong mapagod,” said Abainza. Instead, referee Ferdie Estrella worked the bout where Duno stopped Dhanda in the second round to raise his record to 19-1, with 15 KOs. In the companion mainer, interim WBA bantamweight champion Raymart Gaballo also made short work of Japan’s Yuya Nakamura who was halted in two rounds. Vio Garcia was the referee in the Gaballo fight.
Despite his guarded condition, Abainza managed to closely watch both fights. His love for boxing will never be restricted. “Malalakas sina Duno at Gaballo,” he said. “Unang pinabagsak ni Duno sa first round at sa second, si Dhanda pataob bumagsak at matagal hindi gumalaw. Si Gaballo, nanalo rin by TKO against Nakamura.” Abainza was assigned to work an IBF superlightweight title eliminator in Japan on Feb. 18 but had to give that up.
“I love boxing very much,” he said. “Ang buhay ko, kambal na ‘yan. Sinulatan ko si Sen. Manny (Pacquiao) at humingi ako ng tulong. Tinawagan ko rin si Gerry (Peñalosa) para iparating ang problema ko. Sabi ni Gerry, tatawagan niya si Senator. Malaking gastos ito at hindi ko kayang sarilihin ang gastusin.”
For someone who has given so much of his life to boxing, it’s time for boxing to give back to Abainza.
In 1985, Abainza was 33 when he took out a license as referee. Three years earlier, he joined the Makati police force. Abainza retired from the force in 2008. But he hasn’t retired from his work as referee and judge. In 1988, he became a WBA referee and judge and started a long relationship with the boxing body that took him to fights in Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand, Venezuela, Panama, Denmark and China. Abainza said he’s lost count of the WBA title fights in his resume and estimated over 100. He has worked at least 40 OPBF (Orient and Pacific Boxing Federation) title fights since 1987 and more than 100 Pan Asian Boxing Association (PABA) championship bouts since 1995. He was named Most Outstanding Referee by GAB, the first award given by the Dallas Filipino Restaurant agency to a licensed referee.
Abainza said he was fortunate to have worked in fights involving some of the greatest Filipino boxers in history. He was referee in three Pacquiao bouts against Renato Mendones in 1995, Wook Ki Lee in 1997 and Serikzhan Yeshmagambetov in 2003. Abainza fondly calls Pacquiao “the living legend” and “pambansang kamao.” He mentioned other outstanding fighters with whom he shared the ring – Gerry Peñalosa, Jonathan Peñalosa, Luisito Espinosa, Rolando Navarrete, Rolando Pascua, Manny Melchor, Tiger Ari, Pretty Boy Lucas, Jongjong Pacquing, Lulu Villaverde, Cobra Ari Blanca, Ernie Cataluna, Aljoe Jaro, Sonny Boy Jaro and Jerwin Ancajas.
Abainza said he owes his officiating career to the late International Boxing Hall of Famer promoter Lope (Papa) Sarreal, matchmaker and promoter Jun Sarreal and the late GAB boxing chief Atty. Eddie Velasco. “Naging inspirasyon ang pamilya ko,” he said. “Higit akong ginaganahan sa aking pag-referee at pag-pulis. Nabigyan kami ng misis ko (Teresita) ng dalawang anak, isang lalaki at isang babae. Yung babae inaanak ni Joe Cantada at now Secretary of Agriculture Manny Piñol.”
Abainza’s son Marc Lester works at the Syke call center and used to be employed by Smart for 8 1/2 years. His daughter Mari Lloren, a business administration graduate of CEU, is a finance officer with an IT company based in BGC. Her husband Jef Sison works at Coca-Cola. Abainza has one grandson Jacob who is three. Marc Lester, a UST graduate, passed the board exam for teachers and taught Computer Science at Siena College for a year before moving to corporate life.
“Twice ako nag-judge sa Las Vegas,” said Abainza. “Nag-referee ako ng world title fight sa Panama at nag-judge ako ng world title fight sa Venezuela. Love ko ang boxing at malaking karangalan ang naibibigay ng boxing sa ating bansa.”
Abainza said Dr. Carreon is monitoring his creatinine level. “Kailangan hindi mataas ang creatinine ko,” he continued. “Once may go-signal, gagawin ang angiogram ko sa Friday at pag may nakitang bara, tuloy na sa angioplasty.”