British Columbia’s No. 1 Pacquiao fan is a former boxing Olympian

BY Alex P. Vidal / PNS

SURREY, British Columbia – He can’t turn his back from the sport that gave him free college education and berth in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Reynaldo “Rey” Fortaleza’s obsession in boxing didn’t end when he became full-time insurance broker and publisher of the Philippine Asian News Today, one of the biggest and most popular community newspapers that cater to Filipino-Canadians in British Columbia.

Fortaleza, who was 17 years old when he represented the Philippines as a bantamweight boxer in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, considered himself as a certified number one fan of seven-time world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao in British Columbia.

COMPLETE ATTENDANCE

“No doubt about it as he is the only resident of this province who hasn’t missed a single fight of Pacquiao in Las Vegas,” said Danny De Dios, employee of Air Canada who dabbles as photojournalist.

Fortaleza, 51, a 2007sports Hall of Fame inductee in his Alma Matter, the Far Eastern University in Manila, is a consistent accredited media representative in the last six Pacquiao fights in the United States.

Fortaleza, honored in Toronto as one of top 10 most Outstanding Filipino Canadians 2006 by Binibining Pilipinas of the World, watched Pacquiao’s fights both as a fan and journalist.

Despite his background, Fortaleza regularly joined the fans in queuing for the popular World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight champion’s signatures scheduled a day after Pacquiao’s fight.

“He could have just easily secured Pacquiao’s signature by using his clout as a former Olympian, but Rey had always chosen to be humble and patiently joined the long line like any ordinary fan,” observed Ben Delgado, one of Pacquiao’s closest advisers.

INTERVIEW

Inside the media center of the fight venue, Fortaleza also carried a video recorder and interviewed the likes of HBO analyst Larry Merchant, Pacquiao coach Freddie Roach, world champions Brian Viloria and Nonito Donaire Jr. and hobnobbed with the likes of promoter Bob Arum, among other big names in international boxing community that regularly converged during Pacquiao’s blockbuster fights.

His wife, Cely, his partner in publishing business, would act as his direct conduit for information and papers needed for his media credentials while the husband is on assignment in Las Vegas.

After the fight, Fortaleza would share all the souvenir items with Pacquiao’s signature — jackets, caps, t-shirts, bags, flags, etc– he had gathered in Las Vegas to his friends and family here.

His newspaper and magazine also would come up with exclusive articles and photos taken during the actual fight inside the arena and he would be the talk of the town here “for having witnessed history unfold” in the ringside.

‘FIREPOWER’

In the recent “Firepower” card between Pacquiao and Miguel Angel Cotto, Fortaleza’s media coverage team came in full force, thus they were the only media outfit in British Columbia to make a comprehensive reportage of the historic event.

They interviewed a lot of prominent personalities from politicians to showbiz characters, including members of the coaching and administrative staff of Pacquiao, and stayed alternately at the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay.

In the November 22-December 7, 2009 issue of his other publication, the Philippine Showbiz Today, Jinky ‘s and Pacquiao’s alleged paramour Krista Ranillo’s photos appeared in the front page and its banner story is about an appeal from the Filipino-Canadians for Pacquiao to stage his next fight in Canada. The paper reportedly sold like a hot cake.

Fortaleza’s complete attendance in Pacquiao’s fights made him a celebrity among his publications’ advertisers, clientele in insurance, and buddies in Pinoy Golf Vancouver where he is the team captain.