Roque's friend tapes up his gloves in preparation for the fight.
Roque Lauro was smiling when I took my first few photos of him. He never let go of that smile; from the moment he laced up his shoes, when the gloves came on, and until he heard the sound of the first bell. There was a moment when he looked longingly into the ring, fully understanding that he was about to fight somebody and fully knowing that it was where he truly belonged.
Behind his energy and his eagerness, he knew that he desperately needed the money from the fight. Money to support his wife and their newborn for the next few months.
Roque smiles as one of his friends helps him stretch pre-fight.
Roque performs stretching exercises and meditation before every fight.
Boxing is a dangerous and sport. One doesn't grow old playing the sport. There is however, glory and oportunity in prize fighting. There are those like the renowned Manny Pacquiao, who had risen up to the top of the boxing world, accumulating billions, fighting the best of the best. A poor kid who rose to stardom by being one of the most brutal and skilled fighters of all time, Manny Pacquiao became and remains an icon and hero to millions of Filipinos.
Because of the rich tradition of boxing in the Philippines, many Filipinos choose to wear gear representing the Philippine flag. Here, Roque wears the flag on his shorts while his opponent wears its colors.
Pacquiao however, is a one in a hundred million talent. For most Filipino boxers, the purse money is barely enough to feed their families. Sponsors are small and hard to gain and the luxury of having a manager is rare.
Roque, a fighter with more than 40 fights under his belt, could fight for his entire life and not make even .01% of the money Manny Pacquiao makes in one fight.
Roque, who is already a veteran fighter, makes about P8000 per fight, fighting three to four times in a year. Professional boxing regulation sets limits for how many fights a person can enter per year. This regulation was put in place to protect the health of the fighters. Fighters like Roque would fight every week, if they could. Clearly, the purse money these fighters receive is not enough to fulfill their day to day needs. Almost all of them have part time jobs, mostly at boxing gyms, where they can make extra money on the side training students while training for their own fights at the same time. Professional boxing is not an easy career, for them, the price of extreme physical pain is worth less than minimum wage.
Roque Lauro resting in between rounds at the corner opposite of his opponent
This is the reality of life for the average Filipino boxer: fighting three to four times a year, taking jabs, uppercuts, straights, and hooks to the face. But never flinching.
The two boxers' heads collide, a common occurrence when an orthodox, or right handed fighter (Roque) fights a southpaw, a left handed one.
The two fighters back away from each other. Gauging distance is a key skill to have in professional boxing.
Roque Lauro Walks towards his family after losing the fight by technical knockout. The referee decided to stop the fight when he noticed Roque could barely defend himself after taking a hard uppercut to the chin
After he lost, Roque said to me "Pasensiya na sir." I was confused as to why he apologized to me. He knew that I had no stock in the fight, that I was merely a spectator. He said that it was because he saw me cheering for him and that he wanted so badly to win. He was still smiling when he said, "ok lang sir! lalaban pa tayo, hindi pa ito ang huli." I smiled, and in that moment I felt a tinge of hope. Not just for Roque, not just for the boxers, but for the country. In that moment I felt the indomitable spirit of the Filipino people, something I haven't felt in a long time.
Roque Lauro is but one of the many unknown faces in this country, neglected by many, underestimated by most, but still continue to put up their gloves and fight every single day.
Roque smiles once more as his friends relieve him of his gloves