By Eddie G. Alinea, PNA and Philippine Times of Southern Nevada
Two-division champion Gerry Penalosa trained here once. So did fellow two-weight belt holder Nonito Donaire Jr.
Barely a year after the two Filipino world titlists, Manny Pacquiao, then only a six-division titleholder, followed using the Shape Up boxing gym as his training camp en route to winning two more weight categories and becoming the only fighter in the planet to crown himself kingpin in eight weight categories.
Cooyeesan Hotel, a giant figure of infrastructure along Naguillian Road here, has become Manny Pacquiao’s permanent home whenever he’s in town vacationing or preparing for a fight.
“To become a world champion, a fighter worth his salt needs high-altitude training,” Pacquiao once told this writer. “And speaking of high-altitude preparation, there’s no substitute for Baguio if you happen to be in the country.”
“What you only need is a gym that has everything. A boxing ring, the balls, the bags, all those stuffs. And Cooyeesan Hotel fits all those needs. That’s why we’ve been here the past several years,” the World Boxing Organization welterweight belt-owner said.
And since Pacquiao pitched camp in the Pines City, Cooyeesan has become a grand dame of a sports complex in Baguio, eclipsing all the existing sports arenas here.
The vast 3,500 square-meter former vacant lot not only has a boxing gym, but a basketball court, a fitness and an indoor badminton court as well. A shopping mall stood in the property now managed and ran by brothers Roger, Rodrigo and Anson Tiu Co.
But while all three are captives of basketball, never did they realize that the place, transformed into a hotel cum sports complex, will become more popular as a boxing mecca to no less than the most exposed athlete in the world.
And no one from among the thousands of passersby using the Naguillian Road in going to and from Baguio since it was bought by the trios grandmother Coo Yee San in 1970 that they were looking at history.
It was actually the Pacman’s boyhood friend and now assistant trainer Buboy Fernandez who discovered the place through Penalosa, Donaire and broadcaster Chino Trinidad.
“Naghahanap noon si Manny ng lugar para sa kanyang high-altitude training noong naghahanda siya kay (Miguel) Cotto,” Fernandez recalled. “Katatanong-katatanong ko, umabot ako kay Chino na nagsabing nag-train daw doon si Gerry at Nonito (Manny was then looking for a place fit for high-altitude training against Cotto. I was able to talk to Chino who told me about the place having been a venue where Gery and Nonito once trained).”
“I saw the place to be an ideal for a training camp. From your room upstairs, you just go down several floors and the gym is already there. Walang gaanong distractions.” Buboy said.
Besides the hotel and the sports complex, the Cooyeesan edifice also houses an English school, a supermarket, eateries, gift shops and a bank, among other commercial establishments.
Plan, according to Anson, the youngest of the Tiu Co sportsmen brothers, is to construct a sports complex in a six-hectare family-owned property in Barangay Irisan, Baguio, where boxing and other sports promotions could be held.
“Since we’re already in sports, we might as well go full throttle in sports promotion as the family’s share in giving our “kababayans” a source ot entertainment they want,” Anson said.