Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cubinar family packs a punch

Published on Saturday 30th August - The Malay Mail


RICHARD Donald Cubinar was challenged to a fight by a youngster in a busy part of Kuala Lumpur. Undaunted, it took him just two punches to floor the youth.

No, Richard was not a street fighter nor a gangster. He was a professional boxer in his heyday.

It all happened one fine evening when Richard, now 72, had accidentally bumped into the youth, who put down some papers he was carrying and got into position to hit him.

“Before he could get me, I threw one punch at his stomach and another on his shoulder and immediately held him, because otherwise he would have fallen," recalled Richard.

“I sat him down, fanned him for a while, said goodbye and left,” said Richard, whose altercation with the youth drew a crowd.

“The people were surprised that an old man had fl oored the young man with just two punches."


Richard came from a family of boxers which started with his grandfather.

Of Filipino origin, Richard’s grandfather emigrated to Malaya and passed on his boxing passion to Richard’s father — Eleno Laura Cubinar.

Eleno, whose boxing name was Kid Cabanella, was a Perak state and national champion in the 40s.

He boxed for 23 years with other greats like Tiger Aman, Battling Sima, Little Abayan, Golden Boy and Bautista.

Eleno had three brothers — Kid Pancho, Baby Garcia and Little Pancho — who were boxers, too.

So it was no surprise that Richard took up boxing to keep the family tradition alive.

Richard reflects on his fights in the 40's with the posters he has kept for sentimental reasons

“My father got me into boxing at a very young age. At seven, I was already training with my father during his training sessions in Kuala Kangsar. He would ask me to throw punches at him and taught me the fi ner points of boxing,” said Richard, who boxed under the name Baby Cabanella.

“I had a brother who was a year and half older than me and he boxed under the name Little Cabanella,” said Richard, who had seven brothers and six sisters.

First fight

“I was thrown into the ring for my first professional boxing match at the age of 11. It was a special attraction after my father's bout. There were six main fights that day and mine was the special seventh, where I fought my older brother (Little Cabanella).”

The fight, held at Jubilee Park in Ipoh on Dec 5, 1953, was called Great Boxing Contest in aid of Poppy Day Fund. Tickets were sold at $1, $2 and $3. It was promoted by a certain V.P. Krishnasamy.

“The fight over three one-minute rounds ended in a draw. But that was the beginning of my (boxing) career which lasted over 20 years.”

Richard with his father (seated) and brother.
Professional boxing

Richard said that boxing in those days was very popular and there were many promoters who held events regularly in Ipoh, Penang and Kuala Lumpur’s then famous Bukit Bintang Park (BB Park).

“Among the promoters were the late Abdul Razak Shaik Mohd, the husband of Maria Menando.

“We also boxed regularly in Singapore and Medan.

“Prize money for winners was about $200 and that was big money then,” said Richard, who fought in the featherweight category and later, bantamweight.

“It was passion for the sport that kept us going and we trained very hard because competition was stiff.”

Biggest purse

Richard’s biggest win was $1,500 in a competition in Medan in 1976.

“It was in this competition that I had to box ‘dirty’ after Indonesian opponent Ngadimin had executed an illegal punch on my face, which left me with a deep cut just above the eye," he said.

“The doctor, after examining me, wanted to stop the fight, but I insisted that I could carry on after using ‘baby talcum powder’ to stop the bleeding.

“I went in and executed an illegal punch which broke his arm and I won the fight.”

Asked if the referee had spotted his illegal tactic, he said: “All the boxers have illegal tactics and use it when necessary but it is difficult for the referees to spot it,” said Richard with a cheeky smile.

Richard said that his best year was 1967 when he had 12 wins, which coincidentally was also the year in which he ended his career spanning 1953 to 1976.

Army and Police

At the tail-end of Richard's boxing career, he had already joined the army where he served for six years before joining the Police force in 1977.

He was in the police for 15 years till he opted for retirement in 1992.

During his time with the police, he was the boxing coach for the Police team and was also the national coach for the 1977 Sea Games.

“Many national boxers had gone through me, but it is sad that over the years the boxers in the country have gone weak.

“Many of them do not have the quality because of poor tactics and not being strong.

“Besides, boxing is not popular these days. In my time, we had boxing competitions almost every month all over the country.”

Richard (left) in one of his fights in the 50's.

Richard eventually had to quit boxing and the police because he had a family and the money he earned was not enough.

"I had to quit the force to earn more money and manage my family. I became a bodyguard for several businessmen,” said Richard, who is still working to earn some pocket money. “I work as a security guard because I cannot sit still at home."

A montage Richard in training.
Broken link

As much as Richard would have loved to maintain his family tradition in boxing, it has stopped with him

“I have asked my three sons (he also has two daughters) to pick up boxing, but they are not keen. “My second son Kenny is keen, but cannot find the time. I believe he would have made a fine boxer and kept the family tradition alive.

“I am proud of my family history in boxing and my father’s achievements but I could not find the time to learn from my father,” said Kenny.

Indeed, it's sad such a rich boxing history of three generations would come to an end after Richard.

Richard and the Cubinar family may be of Filipino origin, but being Malaysian-born, they have certainly given Malaysian boxing many memorable moments and a history for our admiration.

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