BY ALEX P. VIDAL
BOXING fans in Western Visayas will miss Antonio “Tony” Maloto, Sr. who was laid to rest at the Molo Public Cemetery in Iloilo City last July 31.
They will miss the small but ear-piercing voice behind the “Ladies and gentlemen…” introduction of amateur boxers that used to reverberate at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand to every point of Panay and Negros where amateur boxing tournaments were held under the auspices of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP) and where Maloto was the official ring announcer.
Maloto was the “Michael Buffer” of Iloilo in particular and of Western Visayas in general. His face in boxing circle was as familiar as his voice for all fans of amateur boxing in this part of the country who have watched local tournaments here since the early 90’s.
Buffer is an American professional ring announcer for boxing and professional wrestling matches. He is known for his trademarked catchphrase, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” He is known for pioneering a distinct announcing style in which he rolls certain letters and adds other inflections to a fighter’s name.
When he was alive, Maloto used to tell me his idol was actually Jimmy Lennon Jr., an American boxing ring announcer who is employed primarily by Showtime as ring announcer for its Showtime Championship Boxing events and Strikeforce mixed martial arts programming.
He and Lennon almost had the same style and manner in delivering the introduction of fighters and announcing the results of fights.
Lennon was also employed by Fox Sports when the Fox network had rights to professional boxing and was the ring announcer for Don King Promotions’ fights that aired on various networks (including HBO, although King has largely promoted fights for Showtime since 1991). He is best known for his catchphrase, “It’s show time!”
Because Buffer is the more active and well-known among Filipino boxing fans, Maloto was easily connected to the American ring announcer who is a familiar face and voice in almost all of Manny Pacquiao’s Las Vegas fights.
Maloto, 64, succumbed to diabetes last July 10 after more than a year of battling the disease, according to Roland Magahin, Maloto’s former boss in the vegetable business in Iloilo Terminal Market.
When Magahin shifted from selling vegetables in the wet market to establishing dealership of the Concentrated Mineral Drops (CMD) food supplement, Maloto became one of his sales agents.
“When doctors rejected him (Maloto) and refused to admit him in the hospital, I gave him CMD which sustained him for almost a year until his death inside their house,” Magahin said. “But God had other plans for him, and CMD could not rescue him anymore.”
As ABAP regional liaison officer and founder of the Iloilo Amateur Boxing Development Club, Inc. (IABDCI), I worked with “Bords Tony” in more or less 100 tournaments since 1990 — from Iloilo City and various Iloilo towns to Capiz, Aklan, Antique, Guimaras, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu City, Mandaue City, Nueva Ecija, Baguio City, Quezon City, Cubao, Ninoy Aquino Memorial Stadium.
When Team Iloilo went to Surabaya, Indonesia in 1997 to invade and fight the dreaded “Aseng Boys,” Bords Tony was left and was replaced by Alfredo “Pidong” Amistoso when he failed to obtain his passport on time.
Aside from being a ring announcer, “Bords Tony” was also our official matchmaker and member of jury. He matched fighters evenly in different barangays to give audience the kind of interesting bouts they deserved.
While he was brought to his final resting place, he was accompanied by family members and friends in the sports fraternity while the song “For Mama” was playing.
Goodbye, Bords Tony! May you continue to “get ready to rumble” in your new place where every moment must be a “Show time!”