Mendoza: Danding staunch supporter of PH sports

Al Mendoza

EDUARDO “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. was not only a successful businessman but also a generous giant in his love for sports. Known mainly as the man behind the sustained growth of beer-food-fuel-infrastructure empire San Miguel Corp., Cojuangco also poured his wealth into Philippine sports, particularly basketball, boxing and horse racing.

As the biggest single patron for decades of De La Salle, his alma mater from high school to college, Cojuangco was responsible for the Green Archers’ numerous conquests of both the National Collegiate Athletic Association and University Athletic Association of the Philippines basketball wars.

Because his love for horse racing is legend, Cojuangco, who was president of the Philippine Racing Commission for years, paraded the most prominent and most expensive winning race horses in his time. So devoted was he to the sport that his peers named one race in his honor—the Cojuangco Cup. His horse ranch in Gold Coast, Australia remains the envy of many horse lovers from all over the world.

Cojuangco was an avid boxing fan, too, and became one of the prime movers of the “Thrilla in Manila” between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier on Oct. 1, 1975 at the Araneta Coliseum. Ali won by a technical knockout when Frazier didn’t answer the bell for the 14th round in the brutal bout dubbed the “Fight of The Century.”

He supported many Filipino boxers, including Luisito “Lindol” Espinosa, the former two-time world champion (bantamweight and featherweight) under the tutelage of the late and respected Hermie Rivera. When Espinosa got married in 1991, he got me as his godfather alongside Cojuangco and my esteemed colleague Recah Trinidad.

As the government-appointed basketball godfather for years, Cojuangco made us Jones Cup champion for the first time in 1985 after marshalling our boys in capturing the Asian Youth crown that featured the likes of Chito Loyzaga, Joel Banal and Hector Calma.

When Cojuangco, also known as a political kingmaker, said his farewell on June 16, days after he turned 85, Recah texted me to say: “Our compadre has lived a full life. Quota na siya.”

Bye, Boss Danding. Enjoy your vacation.