Lawyer Danrex Tapdasan is one of the country’s foremost boxing officials.
Lawyer Danrex Tapdasan is one of the country’s foremost boxing officials. photographS courtesy of Danrex Tapdasan
PORTRAITS

THE GOOD SON

Nick Giongco

Lawyer-boxing official Danrex Tapdasan fell in love with the fight game at the tender age of five.

Back in his hometown of Aurora, Zamboanga del Sur, little Danrex regularly watched boxing while being tagged along by his late father Max.

“He would bring me the municipal gym and I cannot forget there was one time I slept on the venue when the fights were finished way past midnight and my Dad had to carry me while walking back home half a kilometer from our house,” Tapdasan, 46, said.

To describe Tapdasan as a hardcore fight fan is an understatement.

“From then on, my Dad told me to take afternoon naps when there’s a fight that day so that I can stay awake until the fights were finished. He said he will not bring me along if I don’t take those naps. It was clear to me then that I have developed extreme love for the sport because I chose taking a nap over playing with my neighbors in the afternoon during weekends.”

“In addition to that, I was always with my Dad when he watched live coverages of fights on TV and also taped fights on betamax and VHS.”

Born on 17 March 1998, Tapdasan is one of the country’s premier ring officials.

Since becoming a licensed official in 2008, Tapdasan has worked over 1,000 fights, including a total of 48 world title bouts, a feat the once-plump kid never thought was possible.

“Let me mention that I grew up as a fat kid and I did not play any sport for competition because of my physical shortcomings. I saw in myself that my passion and love for boxing might bring me to become a judge, fight supervisor, Games and Amusements Board (GAB) table official, commentator, writer, analyst, manager, promoter or any job in boxing that a fat person can do,” he said matter-of-factly.

“So, at first, I never imagined to become a boxing referee because I thought then that I did not have the physical capabilities for that job. I thought refereeing was not for fat people like me.”

As of May 2024, Tapdasan, who graduated with honors with a degree in political science from Siliman University, has worked 28 world title fights as a judge and 20 world title matches as referee.

With veteran ring officials like Ver Abainza, Bruce McTavish and Virgilio Garcia beginning to fade away, Tapdasan belongs to a new breed of officials who intend to continue the legacy of the great ones.

As a referee, Tapdasan idolizes Carlos “Sonny” Padilla, who worked the epic Ali-Fraizer Thrilla in Manila in 1975, Arthur Mercante Sr., Frank Capuccino, Mills Lane, Richard Steele and Joe Cortez.

When it comes to judging, Tapdasan looks up to the former HBO Boxing fight judge Harold Lederman and Steve Weisfeld.

“I always wanted to be boxing judge. My Dad and I were fond of discussing the rules of boxing and it was so much fun for me to talk to him and analyze fights before it happens and we discussed again what happened in the fights after those fights were finished. I recall that starting when I was in college, I made it a habit to score fights while watching.”

And it was purely accidental that Tapdasan wound up becoming a third man in the ring.

“Honestly, I was only forced to try refereeing when in 2009, the GAB told me that they cannot assign me anymore as judge because boxing events were very few at that time and there so many of us licensed judges and I was the newest and youngest so they prioritized to assign those older and more experienced than me. Then, the GAB informed me that there were only a few licensed referees at that time and if I try refereeing and pass the examinations, they will license me as referee and I will be assigned in fights as referee.”

As an accredited international official, Tapdasan gets to travel around the world for free.

“Other than traveling to all continents in the world (except Antarctica) with all expenses paid, part of the perks of my success and popularity within our ‘small’ boxing community, I happen to get the privilege of being seen on TV either refereeing fights or guesting as analyst or hosting shows on TV and radio in relation to boxing.”

Tapdasan, who earned his law degree from San Beda University in 2003, admits he gets overwhelmed by the exposure.

“I mentioned about this because it takes so much happiness and joy every time my Mom and my wife tell me that they saw me on TV and both of them are very proud of me and my achievements in boxing.”

“It breaks my heart that my Dad is no longer here with us to see what has become of this fat kid who came from the province, was not so athletic and used to be bullied and called a lot of names when he was young,” he said.

In a short call on Father’s Day, Tapdasan waxed nostalgic as he remembered the old days with his father.

“He left us when I was 19 years old and when I graduated (from college), he wasn’t there.”

Despite his deep love for boxing, Tapdasan still prioritizes his family.

“I was supposed to be in Passi, Iloilo, today because I had been asked to officiate a big fight there but I politely told them that I could not because of a prior commitment.”

Tapdasan wasn’t in another fight.

He was, in fact, serving as an alalay (companion) to his son who had a chess tournament to take part in.

“I told them that my family is still my priority because moments such as these are precious. Ring assignments you can still get them but time with family, you just can’t. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

But when he’s in boxing mode, Tapdasan is passionate about his job.

“At first, during my first year (as an official), I was treating my being a judge and referee as a passing fancy or weekend stress buster. However, when I deepened my knowledge and passion for the sport, I became more serious and starting that time until today, I consider being a boxing judge and referee as a very serious profession because our job can change the livelihood and life of a boxer.”

In the foreseeable future, Tapdasan will be reverting to boxing once again to work a fight in Japan before heading back to the country for a series of local shows.

Knowing the perils of the job, Tapdasan is guided by this mantra: My ultimate goal is to improve the life and livelihood of boxers one accurate and fair call at a time.

You can be so sure that daddy Max, wherever he is, is overjoyed with what his son has become.