Veteran sportscaster Ronnie Nathanielsz dies

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Veteran sportscaster and boxing analyst Ronnie Nathanielsz passed away early Saturday. He was 81.

Nathanielsz's colleague, sports columnist Beth Celis, confirmed the news to CNN Philippines.

According to another colleague, Dyan Castillejo, Nathanielsz died in San Francisco, California on Saturday - a week after suffering a heart attack.

Castillejo said his remains will eventually be flown to Manila.

Nathanielsz was known for his remarkable analysis of boxing matches.

He served as Muhammad Ali's liaison officer when the legendary boxer went to the Philippines in 1975 for "Thrilla in Manila."

Friends, colleagues remember Ronnie

The colleagues and friends of Nathanielsz are mourning his death.

Broadcast journalist Bunny Arville, who previously worked with the veteran sportscaster, revealed Nathanielsz dreamed of becoming a boxer.

"He previously dreamed to become a boxer, but due to a diagnosis of irregular heartbeat in his late teenage years he has abandoned his bid to become a boxer," Arville said in a Facebook post.

He said Nathanielsz suffered from chest pains last November 3 en route to the Manny Pacquiao-Jesse Vargas fight in Las Vegas, where he was supposed to join a broadcast panel.

Arville said the sports analyst was then brought to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Burlingame, San Mateo County.

"My dear friend, I'm going to miss you," he said.

Castillejo said he was always fun and full of passion in their coverages, adding Nathanielsz's credibility and integrity has always inspired her.

Fellow boxing analyst Ed Tolentino said it is with a heavy heart and tears in his eyes that he's saying farewell to Nathanielsz.

Sports analyst Quinito Henson cherishes the moments he had with his colleague, whom he said had so much passion for sports.

"It pains me because he's been a pillar in the world of sports, someone who has covered sports very passionately. He'll certainly be missed," he said.

Henson told CNN Philippines he worked with Nathanielsz in a number of basketball and boxing events here and abroad. He said their last coverage together was during the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight last year. 

Nathanielsz was born in Sri Lanka and was granted Filipino citizenship in the 1970s.

Henson commended Nathanielsz's love for the Philippines.

"His love for the Philippines has never been a question. In fact in international coverages, he would always make it a point to wear a pin of the Philippines on the lapel of his coat to show his allegiance, loyalty, and love for the Philippines," he said.

The World Boxing Organization also offered its sincere condolences to his family and friends.