It was August of 2009 when I walked into the Cabbage Town Gym in Toronto and listened to the usual sounds that emanate from such surroundings.
I was there to make contact with Marvin Sonsona, a young super flyweight that my good friend and matchmaker at the time, Sampson Lewkowicz, had contracted to appear on my show in September.
As I strolled in, I was taken aback by the sound in the far corner of a fighter making contact with the heavy bag. The sound was different. The “crackling” nature of that sound alluded to the punching power that this young man possessed.
This was my introduction to “Marvelous” Marvin Sonsona.
Sampson pleaded with me at the time that, despite his youth, he was the best talent to come out of the Philippines since the legendary Manny Pacquiao. Reasoning that since Sampson had also discovered Pacquiao, he certainly had credibility in his argument.
So it was on September 4, 2009, at the tender age of 19, “The Marvelous One” engaged in a “fight of the year” candidate in winning the WBO Super Flyweight Title over Jose Lopez of Puerto Rico before a sold out Casino Rama.
Marvin returned shortly thereafter and spent a considerable period of time in Toronto while training for his first defense of that title. During that period I got to know him, fairly well. He did a number of public appearances in the Filipino community for me and appeared at a public sparring session as part of a fundraiser to garner funds for flood relief in the Philippines at the time. We raised over $250,000 that night with the assistance of the Canadian Red Cross as the Filipino Canadian community turned out in volumes to see Sonsona.
Sadly, Marvin’s first defense resulted in him losing the title on the scales, prior to engaging in another thrilling 12-round draw with Alejandro Hernandez.
Marvin may have lost the title that night, but he had won over the fans in Toronto who never stopped asking what was next for “The Marvelous One”.
What was next was a step up over two weight divisions to challenge the undefeated Wilfredo Vasquez, Jr., for the vacant WBO Super Bantamweight Title in February of 2010. It proved too much of a reach for Marvin and he succumbed to the body attack by the much stronger Vasquez.
Marvin returned to the Philippines and fought in each of the ensuing years through 2013. His dedication to his craft disappeared. He missed subsequent fight dates set up for him by Sampson, designed to get him back in the mix, so as not to let that immense talent go to waste.
Despite the urging of both Sampson and Sammy Gello-Ani, his Philippine promoter, Marvin went through the motions rather than reach for the stars, as we all wanted him to do.
Exasperated, but refusing to give up on Marvin, Sampson promised him a substantial payday and a crossroads fight against the number two-rated featherweight in the world, Akifumi Shimoda, at the Venetian Resort Casino in Macao on February 22 of this year.
Marvin rose to the occasion with a stunning one-punch knockout of Shimoda in the third round. Was he back or was this a “one off” based on his incredible punching power?
To find that out, Sampson has rematched him against Vasquez Jr. on the undercard of Martinez/Cotto at Madison Square Garden in New York on June 7.
This is the big stage that Sonsona has been waiting for, but which Sonsona will show up?
As a minority promotional partner in the young man, I am hoping he shows up having had a dedicated training regimen, hell bent on revenge. Hopefully the years that have passed have left “The Marvelous One” educated to the dedication of his craft. He owes this to Sampson and Sammy, who have stuck with him through thick and thin. He owes this to his fans who need a worthy successor to Pacquiao. And most of all, he owes it to himself for the road travelled.
One thing is for sure. All his fans in Toronto will be watching and looking forward to the day he makes his way back North to where it all began.