By Don Altamirano for Latino Sports
Photo Credits: LA RED FILMS and LIQUID FIRE STUDIOS (Magdiel Maldonado and Alfredo Mestre)
Toa Baja, Puerto Rico- Manny Siaca Jr., former WBA super middleweight Champion, recently spoke with Latino Sports regarding a championship career, his father, and current endeavors at the Manny Siaca Boxing Gym in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.
Siaca Jr.is one of many participants of an upcoming La Red Films production and documentary about the career of former bantamweight world champion Wilfredo Vazquez Sr, and detailed for Latino Sports. The Manny Siaca Boxing Gym has been in continuous operation since 1972.
“The then mayor of Toa Baja gave my father permission to operate the gym,” Siaca explained, it’s also free of charge. “I used to play volleyball, but it wasn’t until 1996 that I decided I wanted to represent my country in the Olympics as a member of the Puerto Rico National Boxing Team.”
That 1996 Puerto Rico National Boxing Team included Jose Cotto, the brother of Miguel Cotto, (Only four- time division champion from Puerto Rico), Boxing Hall of Famer, Olympic Bronze Medalist and the former WBO Super Welterweight and WBO Light Middleweight Champion Daniel Santos.
“I didn’t make the team, but I came pretty close, so that motivated me to keep going and make the transition to the pros despite having little amateur experience,” Siaca said. “It was the obvious or natural thing to do; the boxing gym was an extension of my house, and I grew up watching my dad train greats like Samuel Serrano, Wilfredo Vazquez, and Edwin Rosario.”.
Under his father’s tutelage, the 6’1” Siaca Jr. made his pro debut in 1997 at Cruiserweight and earned his first world title shot in 2000 against Bruno Girard for the WBA vacant Super Middleweight Title.
“I lost my first title shot to Girard in a controversial split decision in France,” Siaca said. “The WBA orders a rematch and eventually strips Bruno Girard of his title for refusing a rematch with Siaca. I then lost twice to Byron Mitchel in my quest for the WBA Super Middleweight Title.”
Both were heartbreaking losses, a 12th round TKO and a split decision at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the night Bernard Hopkins defeated Hall of Fame champion Felix “Tito” Trinidad. He said that was a breaking point and thoughts of hanging up the gloves.
“At that point, I figured I was done and thought about retiring,” he said. But quitting was not an option, and on May 5, 2004, at the Entertainment Centre in Sydney, Australia. Manny Siaca Jr defeated world champion Anthony Mundine to win the coveted WBA Super Middleweight title. That night, Puerto Rico made boxing history by producing its first world champion in the Super Middleweight division.
The Manny Siaca Boxing Gym currently is managed by his brother. The former Super Middleweight Champion currently has two pending boxing trainer opportunities.
“I want to carry on my father’s legacy and boxing philosophy, which was founded on discipline and a strict work ethic,” Siaca explained about Emanuel Antonio Siaca Sr. the well-known world-class boxing trainer in Puerto Rico and Latin America. His military background is attributed to strict discipline and work ethic that is seen in the gym with young and aspiring fighters.
The Vietnam War Veteran who served in the United States Navy is regarded by Experts and colleagues to be one of the best boxing trainers in Puerto Rico’s illustrious boxing history.
“Dad had a keen eye for young fighters; he discovered Chapo Rosario at the age of eight. He demanded nothing but the best from his pupils.Prominent trainers from all over the island would come to our gym to spar with his fighters… it was a testing ground for up-and-coming fighters ” Siaca explained.
Though, his stuttering was one of the aspects I found curious. In a field where clear and precise communication is critical, I inquired about this intriguing characteristic.
“It was never an issue.. some fighters found it challenging initially, but by the end of training camp, they understood him,” Siaca said.
The names are extensive with several professional boxers who developed into world champions, due to by Manny Siaca Sr. that include Esteban De Jesus, Samuel Serrano, Juan Nazario, Felix Pagan, Luvi Callejas, John Ruiz, Leo Gámez, Noel Arambulet, Joan Guzman, Jesus Rojas, Eddie Mustafa Muhammed, Manny Siaca Jr, The Kameda Brothers from Japan, Wilfredo Vazquez Sr, and Boxing Hall of Famer Edwin “Chapo” Rosario.
Truly an enriched history that continues with building more champions that have been an association of boxing and Puerto Rico.
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