As the Cordillera region celebrates its 33rd founding anniversary this Wednesday, athletes who put the Cordilleras to the map should get to hug the sports limelight.
For sure, combat sports will quickly pop up and Team Lakay will be the first thought. Rightfully so. No other group comes close to what they achieve in terms of highlighting Cordillerans and the Igorot culture.
The Mark Sangiao-led group did what they had to do, win MMA matches. And boy, they did it masterfully!
That made them one of the most respected, and most feared, gyms in Asia. It’s safe to safe that they are the barometer for MMA success in Asia, establishing a strong presence in ONE Championship and Brave Combat Federation.
And like their name and logo, they carried the Cordilleran tradition and colors proud wherever they go, making it known to people of various places.
Individually though, a boxer was first in reaching unbelievable heights during his time.
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Tam is Cordillera’s most accomplished boxer up to present. He was a professional boxer from Benguet, strutting his wares from 1974 to 1982. Tam’s career was characterized with crazy roller coaster streaks.
Tam roared to a blazing start. Debuting on December 26, 1974 here in Baguio, he went on to register an impressive 67% flooring rate in his first 15 bouts.
After held to a draw in his fifth bout, he went on a demolition rampage by annihilating his next 18 adversaries that includes eight kayoes. All-in-all, he was unbeaten in his first 23 fights, the draw being the only dent in his record.
He won two major titles during the run, the Philippine Super Featherweight and the OPBF super featherweight title. Both bouts were held in Baguio City.
That streak set-up a WBC World Super Featherweight title shot against Legendary Nicaraguan, Alexis Arguello, on April 29, 1978. The world title bout was held at The Forum, then home of the Los Angeles Lakers, in Inglewood, California, USA.
See more detailed career here: Remembering One of Cordillera’s Greatest Athletes: Rey Tam
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Unfortunately, Tam lost, followed by four more straight losses.
He, however, showed resiliency and got back on track by going on another winning streak, eight straight this time.
This ushered another OPBF Superfeather Weight title shot he would eventually lose in a very tight split decision.
Three straight losses followed before rising up once more with six straight wins that led to another Philippine Lightweight title shot in Baguio.
Being a titleholder again was not meant to be as he was floored in the 11th round in what turned out to be the last bout of his career.
Tam had a record of 36-9-1 including 14 knock-outs when he decided to hang his gloves.
By: Armando M. Bolislis
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