Is Chris John the Manny Pacquiao of Indonesia?
After 1965, two important, though unrelated push-pull factors, brought the Indonesian immigrants to the United States.
First, an immigration law facilitated and pulled the entry into the United States by individuals and families.
Second, the Old Order under President Sukarno collapsed violently, helping to push Indonesians to emigrate. From the results of the 2005 US census, it is estimated that 40,000 Indonesians are now living in Southern California, mostly around the Los Angeles hub.
Contrast this population dynamic to the few thousands who are now living in Chicago.
It is, therefore, quite understandable when the savvy promoters chose the famous Staples Center in Los Angeles to host the coming featherweight boxing championship rematch between Chris John and Rocky Juarez.
Lost in the luster and deafening roar amid preparations and expectations for the upcoming Mayweather-Marquez fight in Las Vegas, home of world-class boxing, organizers have been tapping into grassroots Indonesian organizations throughout Los Angeles and suburbs.
Civic leaders, high-ranking diplomats, and ordinary Indonesians have joined hands together to drum up interest, beyond ethnic outreaches, for this exciting fight.
They have an equal score to de-equalize, recent wounds to re-open.
In fact, the de la Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions required the Chris John's camp to buy 5,000 tickets to help stimulate such interest in the fight. It is common sense but imaginative, almost door-to-door knocking.
It is succeeding.
Who is Chris John?
Unlike Manny Pacquiao, Chris has languished in the background in his home turf unable to achieve cross-over international appeal in the featherweight division of boxing largely dominated by Mexicans, Afro-Americans, Filipinos, and even a few Thai fighters.
More recently, he was possibly victimized by a hometown draw against Rocky Juarez when they fought to a highly controversial draw in their first 12-round match held on February of this year in Houston, Texas.
This city is the home of Rocky Juarez, an Olympic hero who won the silver medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics.
The draw, considered one of the best fights this year, allowed John the 11th successful defense of his crown. Had he lost to Juarez, he would not have been invited to return to America for another boxing title fight, a view posited by his manager.
That is how professional boxing sometimes operates.
Pay-For-View based on two fighters’ cumulative popularity and gate receipts often drive the adroit decision-making by MBA-styled promoters as well as the stars’ innate desire for maximizing their logistic returns.
It is the invisible hand stroking a well-oiled machinery called capitalism.
The coming second fight, on June 29, therefore, would be another make-or-break for John. A spectacular win could get boxing promoters and fans salivating.
A subsequent fight, of near-mega proportion, would be conceivable, which could break the bank for him; actually, for either fighter, since Rocky himself commands a huge following from diehard Mexican boxing fans, here in the US and in Mexico, not to mention Latin countries.
So who is this Chris John, again?
He may not be the most interesting man in the world, at least according to recent US media hype. Yet, he is, nevertheless, the long-time WBA Featherweight Champion of the World! Except for Indonesians and knowledgeable boxing loyal fans, not very many people would be able to guess who he is based on mention of his name alone.
Of course, they can Google search and find many hits, though barely in the ball park of Pacquiao's.
He was born Yohannes Christian John in Jakarta, Indonesia. He now makes a home in Semarang, Indonesia. He holds a lifetime record of 42 wins, 0 loss, 2 draws, 22 by knockouts.
Get this: Undefeated after 11 defenses!!!
So what really makes Chris John a special fighter? There are two reasons we have found that would make the great Manny Pacquiao himself quite surprised, maybe even humbled.
Chris John won by a unanimous decision against Juan Manuel Marquez, the Pacquiao's hardest matchup to date.
This win was eked out before his very own countrymen in Terraggon, Indonesia in 2006.The Sweet Science – an impartial boxing organization, scored this as a real unanimous decision win for Chris.
Not a hometown decision, by any means.
Compare this to the controversial draw and split decision that Pacquiao struggled out of from his face-offs with JMM.
To this day, the boxing world is still buzzing over and debating both the draw and the split decision.
By no means have the many nagging doubts on the official verdicts been squelched for good. The popular jury (fans, writers and boxing pundits) are still out on it. The court judges of those fights seemed to have favored the fighter who appeared to have carried the fight to the other.
Arguably, it was Pacquiao who was the aggressive warrior in either fight.
Apparently, as many others have alleged, the intelligent JMM simply counterpunched his way through the Pacific Storm, and probably had won enough rounds to win the fight, at least according to some respected boxing pundits and sports writers.
Many are the allegations indeed. But Pacquiao scored a neat total of four clean knockdowns in those fights, thus nailing the ringside judges' nods. In a close decision, the aggressor usually gets the benefit of the doubt.
Still, Freddie Roach, who is Pacquiao's highly regarded coach, announced, somewhat nonchalantly, "it could have gone either way." Should have leveled the field and deflated any foreboding controversy.
But no, trilogy-crusader Marquez became, so there he goes again…, ad infinitum.
In a lot of ways, the first draw between John and Juarez was just as controversial. Both camps were unnaturally relatively quiet over the doubtful results, either side claiming a much-deserved victory.
By simple extrapolation, both camps knew the controversy needed to be settled by fist action on the ring, not arrhythmic noise away from it.
Ala Pretty Boy Mayweather.
Therefore, the return match at the Staple Center on June 28 became a mirthful obligatory necessity, very soon to be a revengeful reality.
Mark your calendar.
Chris John holds an undefeated record. This compares somewhat favorably with Pacquiao's scintillating accomplishments, although John accomplished his against lesser fighters.
Pacquiao's last 6 wins came at the expense of 6 world champions - current or former, the last two being the edging-toward-retirement Rick Hatton, and the dearly departed Oscar de la Hoya.
But Chris is undefeated.
That is eloquent. It speaks volumes. That he has not achieved cross-over appeal yet mainly has to do with the diminutive ethnic fan base supporting him here in the boxing-crazed US—the same country that threw down the carpet before erstwhile just-ethnic Pacquiao.
A convincing victory against Juarez might open the door for John to become a hugely popular Asian icon, just like Pacquaio has well demonstrated with his extremely popular do-or-die boxing style.
There are less than 100,000 Indonesians in the United States. Half of them are living in Southern California.
Can he cross over?
In a recent interview, the confident Chris John has guaranteed a win by no less than a unanimous decision. He even claimed a victory by a knockout is quite possible.
Can he do it?
Chicago Land, where I have been a happy resident since 1997, seems to have a large variety of ethnic eateries of all kinds but there are very few Indonesian places we may consider with a broad cross-over appeal popularity very similar to what Chris John is coveting from the boxing fans all over the world, especially in the US.
Could Chris John, who could very soon reach iconic status like Pacquiao’s, change all of that?
I would like to see Chicagoans, led by a burgeoning population of young Southeast Asians, out of wild and hungry curiosity, develop a fashionable taste for fabulous Indonesian cuisines like satay, sambals, and beef rendang.
I want to be the first on line.
And I don't mean fight night only. Boxing thrills and gourmet delights never clash to determine a winner.
They are, invariably, an evenly cooperative draw.
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