FORMER world title challenger AJ “Bazooka” Banal makes his return to international shores with a fight in Las Vegas on Jan. 11.
Banal, who is back training in Cebu City, last fought outside the country in 2009, wherein he won by unanimous decision againt Jose Angel Beranza in Honolulu, Hawaii.
“Yes. I’m here in Cebu. I have a fight in Las Vegas on Jan. 11. I don’t know who my opponent is yet but it will be a big-time fight,” the 29-year-old Banal told SunStar Cebu.
Banal is currently under former world champion Morris East’s stable and is training at the Holiday Gym and Spa. He is with fellow former ALA boys like Mark Jason Melligen and James Bacon.
After taking time off from boxing following his win over Emilio Norfat in 2015, Banal moved to Manila and returned to action with a split decision win over Jason Egera in a light welterweight bout. He moved down to super featherweight in his next fight early this year, and won a unanimous decision over Master Suro.
Once dubbed as the future of Filipino boxing, Banal hasn’t lived up to everybody’s expectations.
In his first shot at a world title in 2008, Banal battered Rafael Concepcion in front of a hometown crowd at the Cebu Coliseum. He, however, lost his steam and was knocked out in the 10th round of their interim WBA super flyweight bout.
After winning 11 straight fights, Banal was back in title contention and fought Pungluang Sor Singyu for the vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) bantamweight belt. Sor Singyu stopped Banal in nine rounds. (EKA)