Duno's compassion for opponent overshadows knockout win

ESPN5 Boxing post-fight (3:11)

Carlo Pamintuan and Dennis Principe break down Saturday's ESPN5 Boxing card featuring Sanman Promotions fighters Dave Apolinario, Romero Duno and Reymart Gaballo. (3:11)

There's something special and unique about the bond that fighters share after being in the ring against each other. Some hug or raise each other's hand or lift the ring ropes for an easier exit to show respect. In some cases, boxers would even join their foes in the hospital even if they caused the injuries that required the trip there.

For weeks or even months, they train for the sole purpose of dealing the most damage and winning the fight but deeply embedded in this brutal sport is the care that boxers have for each other.

This was witnessed on ESPN5's fight card in partnership with Sanman Promotions on Sunday. In the co-main event "Ruthless" Romero Duno showed his brutality and then his humanity in a span of a few seconds.

Duno scored a knockdown in the first round of his lightweight match against Kuldeep Dhanda, so every movement from the Filipino from then on elicited a reaction from his Indian foe in anticipation of another strong punch. In the second round, Duno feigned to his left, which caused Dhanda to lower his guard. It opened him up to a big overhand right that Duno landed perfectly, causing the visitor to crash violently onto the canvass.

The officials in and around the ring did their best to attend to Dhanda at the soonest possible time. Referee Ferdie Estrella waived the count to attend to the fallen fighter. Even judge Carlos Costa, a Panama native living in Cebu, suggested the same thing as he waved his hands after Dhanda landed in front of him.

Five seconds after the knockout, Brico Santig, a promoter and matchmaker who was working in Dhanda's corner, was already pushing back the Indian's head to allow him to breathe easier. Five more seconds later and the ringside physician came in the ring with an oxygen tank.

While this was happening, Duno stood near his foe, motioning for him to get up with his hand.

There was no celebration for Duno. No primal screams. No Fortnite dances. Not even a raised hand.

After scoring the most spectacular knockout of his young career, Duno stood in the neutral corner, almost apologetic with what he accomplished. When Duno tried to walk towards Dhanda, the referee held on to his arm and raised it for him.

The young Filipino fighter tapped Dhanda's leg with his glove to try and wake Dhanda up before walking back to his corner. While his trainers were taking out his gloves, the boxer looked like he was on the verge of tears, until reassurance from his cornermen calmed him down.

Duno stood over Dhanda even as the medical staff carried a stretcher into the ring, only looking away when his emotions were about to overcome him again.

From the moment he got knocked out, it took the Indian boxer about three minutes to sit back up. Immediately Duno went beside his foe, tapping him on the shoulder and then shaking his hand. The two shared one last hug after the official result was announced before Dhanda stepped out of the ring, perhaps for good.

"I felt the punch on my arm. I knew it landed flush. My first reaction was happiness but when I saw that he was knocked out cold, I got worried because I'm also a fighter like he is. I can also feel the situation he was in," Duno said after the match.

Post-fight interviews are mostly about calling out future opponents, telling your haters and doubters they were wrong, and other forms of machismo but Duno was above it all.

"It's a good feeling to win as long as my opponent and I are both okay," Duno explained. "When he got up, I felt a little better because at first I thought I broke his jaw, which was something I did not want to happen."

It's not the first time that a Filipino fighter showed this much care about the well-being of his opponent. The most popular example of this was when Manny Pacquiao glanced at referee Lawrence Cole in his fight against Antonio Margarito.

Even against an opponent whose camp made fun of Freddie Roach's disease, Pacquiao rose above the negativity and asked the referee to stop the fight as he did not want to continue peppering Margarito's already busted face with more punches.

The premise of the fight card was to offer a glimpse of future Filipino world champions who will carry the fight when Pacquiao finally calls it a career. Duno's boxing prowess and his reaction to it after the fight should make Filipino fight fans confident that they can not just have boxing champions representing them but great human beings as well.