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Japan’s ‘Compassionate Pugilist’ Gives Training and Hope to Poor Filipino Boxers

Japanese trainor Eiji Yoshikawa (right) and Cirilo Espino (left) who won a boxing championship in Mindanao Island in the Philippines

Japanese trainer Eiji Yoshikawa (right) and Cirilo Espino (left) who won a boxing championship in Mindanao Island in the Philippines

A Japanese filmmaker known as the ‘compassionate pugilist’ has been providing training and assistance to poor underdog boxers from the Philippines in the hope of inspiring these athletes to become champions like Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao.

After meeting some struggling boxers from the Philippines, Eiji Yoshikawa was moved by their conditions and decided to give them professional training. But aside from sharing his expertise, he also asked some of his friends and other Japanese boxers to donate resources to provide training and financial support to the families of the Filipino boxers. After two years, Eiji has successfully trained two boxers who have played in the national championships.

Eiji told Global  Voices he thinks boxing can help some of his trainees escape poverty:

Boxing doesn't require degrees and certificates. You can't read but can fight. Inside the ring, rich and poor are equal. If you polish your skill, you'd be Manny or Nonito. [Filipino boxing champions].

Obviously, only a handful can reach the world's top, but boxers can learn so much about life like who you are, your strength and weakness, especially from losing fights.

A champion's belt won't last long, but learning about yourself and the world would not only last long but it gets deeper and better.

But he often reminds his trainees that boxing should not be viewed as the only route to escape poverty. That is why he is encouraging boxers to complete their schooling. He also supports the decision of boxers to send their children to schools.

One of Eiji's Filipino players in a boxing match in Tokyo

One of Eiji's Filipino players in a boxing match in Tokyo

Eiji’s experience in providing training to Filipino boxers and his mission to promote awareness about poverty in the Philippines is the subject of a film documentary entitled ‘Rumble in the Jungle.’ Check the trailer of the film below:

Eiji has been showing the film in various schools in Japan and the response of the students has been very positive. Many have expressed their willingness to give support to the poor boxers.

One initiative that really made a difference in the community where boxers live was the building of a sports gym that was made possible through a fundraising campaign started by Eiji and his friends.

Building a boxing gym in a Philippine community through a fundraising effort in Japan

Building a boxing gym in a Philippine community through a fundraising effort in Japan

Boxing is popular in the Philippines and many young people want to emulate the career of world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao. But not everybody can be Pacquiao and there are hundreds, if not thousands of amateur boxers who remain poor and lack proper training. Fortunately, there are ‘compassionate pugilists’ like Eiji who are not only highlighting the conditions of poor boxers but are also inspiring  people both in Japan and the Philippines to offer assistance to these athletes and their families.

All photos from Eiji Yoshikawa, used with permission.

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