HARD-HITTING John Paul Gabunilas guns for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) Asia Pacific Youth light flyweight strap against Indonesian prospect Wandi Priman Hulu in the main event of ARQ Promotions’ “Engkuwentro 9” on March 24 at the Talisay Sports Complex in Talisay City.

Gabunilas weighed-in at 106 pounds, while Hulu tipped the scales at a lighter weight of 104.5 pounds.

“I’m 100 percent ready. I have prepared for two months for this fight. We have a game plan. I won’t promise a knockout, we’ll just see on fight night,” the 22-year-old Gabunilas said.

Gabunilas is slowly being groomed by ARQ Promotions to be a future world champion. As of now, Gabunilas is nowhere near a world title shot but winning a WBO regional belt should be a good start.

“We want Gabunilas to grow as a boxer. We want to give him international fights. We have seen his potential but we don’t want to rush him. The goal is to give him a world title fight in the next two or three years. Step by step, we don’t want to rush everything,” said ARQ Promotions’ Chelito Caro.

After his only career defeat against International Boxing Federation (IBF) No. 1-ranked light flyweight Regie Suganob in 2019, Gabunilas is a winner of seven straight fights. His latest win was against former world-ranked Jesse Espinas by majority decision on Dec. 20 in San Fernando, Cebu. Gabunilas also won over the likes of Ruben Davidas, Clyde Azarcon, Ricardo Sueno, Maurino Agum and Jonathan Almacen.

The 22-year-old Hulu just turned pro in 2021 with a majority decision over Stinky Mario Bunda. He was immediately tested in his next fight and fought previously unbeaten World Boxing Association (WBA) Asia light flyweight champion Andika D’Golden Boy to a majority draw last year. Following that fight, Hulu beat Bunda again in a rematch by a majority decision.

Gabunilas is 9-1 with six knockouts, while Hulu is 2-0-1.

In the undercard, Ramil Macado Jr. (5-0, 2 KOs) slugs it out with Francis Jay Diaz (8-4-1, 1 KO), Berland Robles (7-0, 3 KOs) locks horns with Ariston Aton (9-6, 5 KOs), Rhonvex Capuloy (9-2-1, 6 KOs) faces off with Jhunriel Jimenez (8-2-1, 5 KOs), Kit Ceron Garces (5-1, 4 KOs) looks to bounce back from his first career defeat and takes on John Mark Henchanova (0-1-1), Angelus Pilapil is up against fellow debutant Jay-r Galleposo and Marco Pomar (4-2, 2 KOs) trades leathers with veteran Anthony Galigao (9-19, 4 KOs). (EKA)