In My Corner: How Ronnie Nathanielsz gave life to my Sportscasting Dream

Anton Roxas on Nov 14, 2016 11:50 AM
How Ronnie Nathanielsz gave life to my Sportscasting Dream
Anton Roxas first worked with Ronnie Nathanielsz on “The Main Event” on December 13, 2008

There are moments in life where you must be courageous. For you never know what opportunities will arise after you decide to close your eyes and take that leap of faith.

My very first appearance as a sports commentator on TV happened on November 30, 2008. I was a 22 year old fresh out of college standing ringside right next to veteran sportscaster Dennis Principe. We were at the Mandaue Sports Complex in Cebu to host “Daytime Boxing 2: Thai Invasion” an event organized by SGG Sports Promotions of Sammy Gello-ani.

I got the gig because of boxing trainer Joven Jimenez. After working out at his gym along Amorsolo St. in Makati, I told Joven that I had dreams of becoming somebody like Quinito Henson or Chino Trinidad. Coincidentally, Sammy was looking for somebody to host his boxing event in Cebu. Joven introduced me to Sammy through the phone and next thing I know, I’m on a plane to Cebu thinking, “this could be it.”

Ten days passed after hosting Sammy’s event and I was still on a high. But, I also wondered when I would be able to do it again. I didn’t realize it was a one-and-done thing. I told my father I had so much fun but at the same time, I was sad because I wasn’t sure whether I did well or not because nobody gave me any feedback. It was close to midnight when my father gave me one of the most important instructions of my life.

“Call Sammy.”

“But, it’s late, Pa. He might be asleep,” I replied.

“He’s awake. Just do it.”

Finally, my cautious self, made the call to Sammy and lo and behold, he picked it up.

After apologizing for calling him so late, I asked Sammy if there was a possibility for me to work for him again in the future. This is what he replied:

“Well, Ronnie Nathanielsz is coming to Cebu for the weekend to cover my event. I will ask him if you can be a part of it.”

The following afternoon, Sammy called me back and told me that Ronnie agreed to have me on his show. I was thrilled! I told my father and he bought me a plane ticket. I was going back to Cebu!

It was a Friday morning. I boarded my 7:30 A.M. flight to the Queen City of the South when it hit me – I was going to work with THE Ronnie Nathanielsz. I had never met him before but I always saw him on TV. He struck me as a perfectionist and somebody who would only work with an equal. Like, why in the world would he work with me? All of a sudden I felt like I might have made a mistake here.

When I got off the plane, I headed to the baggage counter and there he was, the great Ronnie Nathanielsz – silver hair brushed back, shirt tucked into his perfectly ironed black slacks. I was intimidated. Instead of approaching him right away, I went to the bathroom to gather myself. When I finally built up the courage, I walked up to Ronnie and introduced myself.

To my surprise, Ronnie flashed a wide smile and said, “Oh, so you’re Anton Roxas. You’re coming with us!”

“Us” meant Ronnie and his TV crew for his weekly boxing show entitled, “The Main Event”. Dong Capinpuyan was the show’s Director and Mark Israel was its Producer. Ronnie called them, “the best damn team in Sports Production”. I couldn’t believe I was now a part of it.

Ronnie was very straightforward but at the same time, he was very kind and generous. After treating us to a sumptuous lunch, we went to the department store where he bought a couple of shirts. A few moments later, he asked Dong and Mark to pick out shirts for themselves. The two declined but Ronnie insisted until they gave in.

Moments later, Ronnie goes, “Hey Anton, you get a shirt too.”

Being the new guy on the team, I was too shy to accept his offer. “It’s OK, Sir…” was my response before he cut me off.

“Oh come on, don’t be a f*ck!”

Parang akong tinamaan ng mabangis na right straight. Sinabi ko sa sarili ko, “kailangan ko maging matapang pag kasama ko si Mr. Ron.”

A green long sleeved rugby shirt is what I chose. It was Ronnie’s first gift to me. But, there would be a whole lot more.

December 13, 2008. Fight Night. We took a long ride from the city to get to the municipality of Compostela. Sammy’s event was called, “Triple Thrilla in Compostela” and the fights would be aired on Ronnie’s show. I was nervous as hell. But, because of the incident at the department store, I was reminded to be tough.

So, there I was, standing side by side with a legend. Ronnie began delivering his opening remarks before introducing himself and me on national TV.

“I’m Ronnie Nathanielsz and joining me tonight is a young man with dreams…”

I wish I remember what he said after that. That’s all I can recall because that’s all I was at the time. Ronnie gave an inexperienced kid who didn’t even take a broadcasting course in college a chance to be with him on his show. For some reason, he believed in me.

“See? I told you! It’s easy!” Ronnie told me right after our intro.

All of a sudden, my confidence was as high as the beautiful full moon above us during that fateful night.

We called four fights. Ronnie even let me interview Marvin Sonsona after he knocked out his opponent in the main event. It was one of the best moments of my life.

Once we returned to the van to head back to the city, Ronnie spoke to me.

“Hey Anton. You come to my room later and I will give you some money.”

“It’s OK, Mr. Ron. I’m just really happy I got to do this with you…”

He cut me off again.

“Oh come on! You’re a talent! You should be paid!”

Later that night, I received 7,000 pesos from Ronnie. It was the first time I have ever received a talent fee in my life. And I will never forget the man who gave it to me.

Our paths would cross numerous times as the years passed. I was lucky enough to be able to land a job as a sportscaster at ABS-CBN and the producers of the network somehow knew that I had experience working with Ronnie. Because of this, more opportunities to cover boxing came my way and every time I got paired up to work with Ronnie, I would proudly tell everybody the story of how we met.

Without Ronnie Nathanielsz, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It’s heartbreaking for me to know that I will never get to stand ringside next to him to do what we love. I know my next boxing coverage will be an emotional one. But, if Ronnie were there, he would tell me to keep my chin up. If he saw me sad, he would probably say something like, “Oh come on young man! You’re going live in a bit! Now, show ‘em what you’ve got!”

The final bell may have rang for my fearless mentor. But, I know he’s up there, still standing, still fighting, still in my corner. Like he always was.

Maraming salamat, Mr. Ron. I am forever grateful to have been called your “Partner”.

 

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