WHEN JACK ASIS GREW UP AS A HOMELESS STREET KID in the Phillipines he couldn’t even afford a belt to keep his pants up. Fast forward to 2015 and he’s now the proud owner of a WBA Oceania title belt and a number 15 world ranking.
If you know Jack Asis – you know a likeable character, always smiling, always joking – but behind that lies the story of a man who has lived more than his fair share of tough nights.
Jack Asis has beaten more than one 10 count in his life, he’s weathered many standing 8 counts and he’s come back from many knock out blows – and we’re talking about life more so than in between the ropes of a boxing ring.
As a youngster following the separation of his parents Jack stayed with his mother and looked for work to help his mother – he was just 11 years old.
“I would go to the markets, hard ware stores anywhere looking for work,” Asis said
“In the end I would collect plastic bags from the street and sell them at the Sunday markets for 10 cents each to help buy food for my family and my mum washed clothes to also raise money.”
The setbacks continued for Asis, next he was separated from his mother.
“I went to Manila by boat to try find work to earn money for my mother, but to pay for my ticket I had to work for free for two months.
“But I had to make sacrifice to help my mum.”
After after two months of work in Manila the work dried up and Asis again found himself homeless. He was just 13 at this stage and he slept on the streets, boxes and newspapers were his beds and blankets.
“One day I was lucky to survive, there was a land slide thankfully I woke up and was able to run to safety.”
Despite his situation Asis always remained hopeful his life would turn around.
“But there was still many dark times, I would have to hide from gangs in the streets, I had to beg for food or search through bins.
“I was even exposed to drugs and alcohol.”
A chance meeting with a village elder in Manila was the first steps towards salvation and a better life for Jack Asis.
“An elder in the village came to me one day when I was begging him for food he took me in gave me a job delivering soft drinks on a push bike and he introduced me to boxing through a friend of his.
“He said to me I had a perfect build and body for boxing and then he said to me – do you know Manny Pacquiao?
“At the time I had seen his picture on news papers I used to use as blankets at night.
“This man said to me I will introduce you to a friend of mine who is Manny Pacquiao’s trainer.
“The first time I sparred I got hit a lot and it made me angry, but I stayed in there and survived like I had all of my life.”
At fifteen years of age Asis trained morning and night and delivered soft drinks all day.
As an amateur he had five bouts for five wins.
“My first five fights I fought southpaw before switching to orthodox.”
At sixteen years of age Asis turned pro.
“In my first pro bout I was very scared and remember being in the corner and my opponent was throwing punches at me and I didn’t know what to do so I just closed my eyes and threw a big left hand and I was lucky to knock him out and from there I gained a lot of confidence.”
Asis only tasted defeat twice in his first 15 bouts and started to see a future as a fighter.
The world started to take notice in Jack’s 38th fight. He was up against a man regarded as Phillipines next big thing Anthony ‘Rocky’ Marcil.
Marcil was 14-0 with thirteen by knock out and Jack Asis was supposed to be nothing more than a speedbump – but like he had done all his life Asis defied the odds and won the fight.
Not only did he win the fight he totally dominated his more credentialed opponent. Marcil was ruled unable to continue after three short but brutal rounds with his left eye basically swollen shut.
Asis’ next step was moving to Australia, under difficult circumstances his career would stall with a string of losses.
But once again he rose above and got on a roll, Australian titles and wins over International opponents put him in the spotlight once again.
During this time Asis was making regular visits to Toowoomba, firstly as a sparring partner for Michael Katsidis and then Braydon Smith.
Asis fell in love with the Garden City and In turn the Garden City fell in love with Jack Asis.
He became well entrenched in the local Filipino community and eventually made the decision to uproot from Sydney and link with Brendon Smith from Smithy’s Gym in Toowoomba.
“Jack was always such a gentleman when he came up to visit and he became a part of the gym family very quickly,” Brendon Smith said.
The wins flowed just as quickly.
5,6,7,8 in a row and an opportunity was presented to Asis. A fight with Japan’s Hirohito Fukuhara for the WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental Super Feather weight title.
Asis was in complete control, but as has often been the case in his life, things took a dramatic turn for the worse in round nine. He hit the deck from a straight right hand, he beat the count and survived – albeit being deducted a point for holding.
He bounced back in the tenth and final round and when the final bell rang his corner felt and many on lookers concurred – Jack Asis was about to be crowned the new WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental Super feather weight Champion.
The judges score cards saw it differently. One card had it 97-92 in Asis favour. The other two had it a 94-94 draw, making the result a majority draw.
“My heart sank that night,” Brendon Smith said.
“I still firmly believe without a shadow of a doubt Jack won the fight and won it easily even with the knock down and deduction of a point in the ninth.
“I believe the 97-92 score card was accurate.”
Asis admitting it was a tough one to swallow.
“I cried in the dressing room that night, I believe I won the fight and I deserved to walk out with that belt,” Asis said.
“But I’ve been in worse scenarios in my life, so I got over the disappointment and started working towards making amends.”
The fire blazed away inside Jack Asis he scored big wins over Revo Rengkung and Arief Blader and another title shot presented itself.
Jack would meet Brazilian Isaias Santos Sampaio for the WBA Super feather weight Oceania title in October 2014.
“I wasn’t going to let this one slip by,” Asis said.
Asis dismantled the Brazilian winning by second round KO.
Jack finally had his title belt and a top fifteen World rating and the tears flowed not only from Asis but from several in the crowd.
“It was one of the best moments in my life.
“As they were placing that belt around my waist I thought about everyone that helped me reach this goal.
“I thought of my family in the Phillipines, the elderly man in Manila who gave me a job and introduced me to boxing, Todd Makelim who helped me in Sydney and Brendon Smith who gave me the opportunity to earn a top fifteen World ranking in Toowoomba.”
From the first day Jack Asis arrived in Toowoomba Brendon Smith described him as ‘a fairy tale in the making.’
Fairy tales have happy endings and Asis’ dream is one step closer to reality. With that WBA Oceania belt comes a top fifteen World ranking.
A world ranking equals opportunity.
Now the homeless kid that used to sell plastic bags in the markets of the Phillipines could soon be packing his bags for a shot at the WBA World title.
“Once you’re in the top 15, anything can happen,” Brendon Smith said.
“We could get a call tomorrow to fight the champion, or we could be called upon to fight another top fifteen fighter for the mandatory position.
“We’re so close.
“A huge thanks to the WBA for giving Jack an opportunity.
“WBA Oceania general secretary Derek Milham has closely monitored Jack’s career and they’re a big player in this fairytale story.
“Jack Asis can be the champion of the World, all we need is a shot,” Smith said.
Jack Asis admits from his days on the street he never gave up hope he could one day ‘be somebody.’
“I always had faith,” Asis said.
“I always had faith god would guide me and let me be the best I can be in life.
“If I get an opportunity at a World title – I’ll do the same thing I’ve done all my life – I’ll fight.
Call it rags to riches, from zero to hero, rising against the odds – the list goes on and on and they’re all accurate.
Brendon Smith probably summed it up perfectly – Jack Asis is a fairytale story in the making.
We’ve flicked through the first 11 chapters, all that’s left to be written is chapter twelve. Will it be the happy ending all fairy tales deserve? No one knows.
But rest assured Jack Asis is a living example of the saying “Tough times DON’T last – tough people DO.”