Jhack Tepora nearly derailed by HIV test scare before South Africa fight

By Ryan Songalia

MANILA, Philippines – Jhack Tepora had much more on his mind than his opponent before his fight with Lusanda Komanisi on September 22, in East London, South Africa.

The Filipino boxer was fighting abroad for the first time as a professional and a standard test for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) administered two days before the fight not only put the fight in jeopardy but also the life of the 24-year-old Tepora. He was informed prior the weigh-in that his test had come back reactive for HIV antibodies, a positive result.

“We didn’t even care about the fight anymore,” said Tepora’s promoter Pio Paolo Castillo, president of Omega Pro Sports International (OPSI). “We were worried about the kid and his children. We were worried about the other fighters in our stable. We were worried with his life.”

In that moment, Tepora pondered what he would do if his boxing career were to end that moment. He thought of his two sons and fiancee and whether he could take a job as a trainer at the Omega Boxing Gym, where he currently trains. Management scrambled for ideas of their own to help him in the event he could never fight again.

“We were receiving word from the promoter already that he is canceling the Tepora-Komanisi fight if the re-test will still be positive,” said OPSI Vice President Jerome Calatrava.

Tepora took a retest that day and endured a sleepless night before getting back the results of the re-test: negative.

Castillo says the issue was likely a mix-up of samples in the laboratory, as the results showed a different given name before the Tepora surname, and the team arranged for Tepora to be retested upon his return to the Philippines, which he says was negative.

“I remember Jhack telling me, when he found out he was negative for HIV, that he was gonna kill his opponent once he gets in the ring,” Castillo said. “And he really did.”

Tepora (21-0, 16 knockouts) was victorious in his biggest fight to date, dropping Komanisi (21-4, 18 KOs) in the second round with a counter right hook that ended Komanisi’s nine-fight winning streak and earned Tepora a vacant WBO regional featherweight title.

Tepora had fought all of his recent fights as a junior featherweight, where he’s rated No. 9 by the WBO. He looked considerably smaller than his opponent in the ring, as a result of the team not focusing on rehydration due to the more pressing matter of his blood test.

“We were basically giving ourselves a 5% chance. And that 5% turned out to be the sweetest,” said Calatrava. “If the fight went on for long, Komanisi will really tire Tepora.”

The win will earn Tepora a ranking with the WBO at featherweight, and Castillo says he has fielded offers from abroad for the southpaw from Cebu City.

“We want big fights now. As to who and where? We really don’t know yet but, because of Jhack’s performance from that day…international promoters have been calling us and been wanting to work with us,” said Castillo.

Currently in the Philippines there is no testing for HIV or Hepatitis C, as part of the boxing licensing process, as is standard throughout much of the world. The only bloodborne pathogen currently tested for, during annual licensing procedures, is Hepatitis B.

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Source:: The Ring – Boxing

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