Four-year wait ends-A A +A
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Four years after losing in first title shot, Cebuano AJ Banal guns for WBO title against Thai tonight
PASIG City—Over four years ago, at 19, AJ “Bazooka” Banal’s life-long dream of becoming a world champion vanished in a single night. An exhausted Banal succumbed to a 10th-round knockout at the hands of Rafael Concepcion in front of a hometown crowd in 2008.
Following a ton of hard work and 11 straight victories, the 23-year-old Banal won’t allow history to repeat in the biggest fight of his career so far.
“I will pay back everyone’s trust. That’s why I have worked so hard to be here,” Banal, 28-1-1 with 20 knockouts, told Sun.Star Cebu after yesterday’s weigh-in, in which he tipped exactly at the 118-pound limit.
Banal is set to trade leathers with Thai star Pungluang Sor Singyu for the vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) bantamweight belt at the SM Mall of Asia Arena tonight in Pinoy Pride 17– Philippines vs. The World.
“This fight is very important to me. It has always been my dream to become a world champion. I believe I’m hungrier to win the title than he is. This is my time, if God permits it,” said the hard-hitting Cebuano.
Sor Singyu, 42-1 with 27 knockouts, tipped the scales a pound over the limit and had to cut the excess weight by running laps. But despite the extra work, the 24-year-old Thai standout is still confident of his chances.
“I feel good even if I had to shed one pound,” said Sor Singyu, who predicted a sixth round knockout.
Rey “Boom-Boom” Bautista (33-2, 25 KOs) won’t let Mexican Daniel Ruiz (27-5-2, 19 KOs) hamper his rise back to the top as he expects to add the vacant WBO International featherweight title to his list of accolades.
“This is one of my most important fights. This is like an eliminator for a world championship. I’m ready to fight for a world title,” said Bautista.
The 26-year-old Bautista, rated fourth in the International Boxing Federation and 11th in WBO, is an inch closer to a world title fight and his promoters are eyeing WBO featherweight king Orlando Salido or a rematch with World Boxing Council featherweight titleholder Daniel Ponce de Leon – one of his tormentors.
Ruiz lost his chance to win the vacant crown after tipping the scales three pounds over the 126-pound limit. He tried to shed the extra pounds in a sauna but he didn’t lose a single pound. He will be wearing heavier 10-ounce gloves tonight.
Jason Pagara (29-2, 18 KOs) defends his WBO International light welterweight title against undefeated Miguel Antoine (17-0-1, 9 KOs).
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 20, 2012.