From Osaka to Granada: “Cowboy’s” journey from boxing to farming

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By Julius D. Mariveles and Ronald Ian D. Evidente

Warlito “Cowboy” Parrenas Jr. knows what popularity looks like.

And feels.

Walito's boxing record from BoxRec.
Walito’s boxing record from BoxRec.

In freaking Osaka and Tokyo no less.

Years ago, when he walked the streets of the two supercities of Japan, “everyone knew me,” he says.

Everyone.

Men, women, children – young and old – they all posed for photographs or asked for autographs.

Warlito Parrenas Jr. when he won the championship during the 26th Tammer Cup in Tampere, Finland in 2005. | Photo from personal collection used with permission

“It’s unlike in the Philippines where we seem to have become used to celebrities,” Warz, as he is known to friends, tells DNX from the farming community of Balabag in Granada village where he and his wife own what he calls a “patch of land” where he grows palay, fruit trees, vegetables, and raises water buffaloes.

Parrenas winning gold in the Asian Boxing Championship in Hanoi, Vietnam. | Photo from personal collection used with permission

Warz came home only on July 17, a month after he turned 37, about 10 years after he left for Japan to pursue a professional career in the sweet science.

Warz started his climb up the professional rung fresh out of his victories in the 2005 Southeast Asian Games where he lost to a Thailander in the finals, a decision that Philippine sport officials wanted to contest at first but did not.

“I don’t even want to talk about it now,” he says with a dismissive tone in his voice, adding that “we Filipinos have a tendency to say we were cheated when we lose.”

“I lost. That’s it.”

From that loss, however, Warz fought and rose steadily until he became number one in the super flyweight division of the World Boxing Organization but lost to the division champion, his sparring partner, Naoya Inoue in a mandatory fight.

Naoya. Inoue. Monster. Yes, he was Warz sparring partner and the last to knock him to the canvass.

“That young man is pretty strong, his hands are solid.”

Warz makes no secret of the fact that developments in the industry made him decide to come home.

There were what can only be described as “peculiarities” that he would rather not detail.

Warz admits his decision to come home and stay in the farm was also prompted by the pandemic and in part by Japan being Japan.

“The cost of living in Tokyo and Osaka is high; these are very expensive cities,” he says.

Fast forward to now, Warz says living in a rural setting offers a certain sense of security from the pandemic, a sense of safety as COVID cases continue to mount here.

A native of Cadiz, the fishing city in the northern corridor of the province facing the Visayas Sea, Marz appears to have hung his boxing gloves after more than two decades of living the life of a ring warrior since he was 12.

But no, he says.

Marz continues to teach boxing, mentoring those who want to make a name for themselves and claw their way out of poverty by offering his services as a coach.

His wife also operates a mini grocery in Consolacion, the name of the hacienda or sugar plantation where they live, to help the neighbors who have to travel to the village proper to get supplies.

Marz also helps in the farm, from tending to the vegetables to drying the palay to being a kargador or a plain laborer who loads sacks or anything that needs to be loaded.

Today, Marz lives a life far from the physical rigors of training early in the morning and attending events to being told what to do by strict coaches.

“This is my dream,” Marz says, referring to his country life that he longed for even when he was pounding other boxers.

It is said that warriors often dream of a quiet, idyllic life, a patch of land to grow crops and time with their families.

He might have been famous in Japan but Warlito Parrenas Jr. had always wanted a quiet life close to nature.

And his wife and two kids.

“I love nature,” he says.

For now, sitting in a rocking chair, a cup of native coffee in one hand and admiring the wonderful vistas is all Warz wants.

And to this ring gladiator, he has found happiness.

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