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Pinoy Pride

Are Genesis Servania and Arthur Villanueva the next world champs out of the Philippines? Do they have what it takes to follow in the footsteps of current world champions Donnie Nietes, Merlito Sabillo and Johnriel Casimero?

If both were to fight for a world title fight tomorrow, the quick answer is a quick “no.” But are they on track for a possible world championship? The answer here is “yes,” but at different paces and timelines for each one. In Servania’s case, he did a good job in scoring a technical knockout win over former world champion Alexander Munoz last week. Fighting ex-world champs is one of the ways to test if a boxer is ready for bigger fights up ahead and in Servania’s case, he passed it with flying colors. “Azukal” dominated the entire fight from the onset and didn’t give Munoz much of a chance to rally and land a lot of punches. What I liked about Servania was how he found ways to break down Munoz’s defense. He jabbed well and mixed up his punches via body blows and straights to the head. He had Munoz confused many times and was never seriously threatened throughout the fight.

But he still has a lot to learn along the way. He also fell into the bad habit of just looking for one punch to end it all instead of boxing his way and beating up Munoz. When he noticed that Munoz was hurt, there were times when Servania would stop throwing combinations and instead look for his right hand or left uppercut or hook to send Munoz to the canvass. Gone was the jab and putting punches together in bunches. These were the times when I wished Servania threw more combinations instead of just looking for that one punch that would end it all. I’d like to see him develop more as a boxer more than a mano-a-mano fighter. Did he learn from the fight? There’s no doubt he can match up against anyone in the business. My main concern is if he can take a punch and if he can deal with the more technical and more skillfull boxers. We have to remember that the current world champions at the super bantamweight level (122 pounds) are no ordinary boxers. Guillermo Rigondeaux and Leo Sta. Cruz are up there as the best in the weight class. It wasn’t too long ago when Rigo taught Nonito Donaire a neat lesson in boxing that wasn’t pretty but effective. Meanwhile, Sta. Cruz took Munoz out in just a round. There are talks of facing Fernando Montiel or even Vic Darchinyan. Now that would be interesting, wouldn’t it? They may be ex-champs but they’re surely much better than Munoz.

I’m afraid “King” Arthur Villanueva was a total different story last week. Yet ironically, I think he was the boxer who learned a ton of lessons more than Servania. He learned a lot from a fight that he could’ve lost and where he got a good beating from last-minute sub Fernando Aguilar. It was a great lesson of how one shouldn’t take a fight lightly, how one should never underestimate a hungry, nothing-to-lose last minute replacement of a warrior especially of the Mexican type. For the first time, Villanueva ended up with blacks and blues on his face with both cheeks and eyes turning puffy from a beating he got from Fernando Villanueva. True, Villanueva won, but he dug really deep to carve out the win. For the first time, Villanueva found himself in an unfamiliar position of having to be on the receiving end of some pretty strong punches. Aguilar’s overhand right and left hook to the body were clicking all night long and my guess is that Villanueva’s conditioning might have been his best aid. It was a first to see Villanueva affected by the getting hit, something which consequently threw off his game plan. We have been used to seeing him controlling all his opponents but this was different. There were a lot of times that he was on a defensive mode and not being able to control the fight. At the end of the day, he still won the fight, and also learned a lot. The major learning lesson here shows that if Villanueva had difficulty against a Mexican with six losses on his slate, he’ll have more problems with the world-rated super flyweights out there. The good news is that these are the kind of fights that one needs to become better. It’s perfectly ok to get beat up for as long as you learn from it. Funny, but I think Villanueva is going to improve a lot more because of this fight. When he chatted with sportswriters, he said he was hurt and couldn’t find ways to defend against Aguilar’s right hand. But he was committed to find ways to become better in defense. Talk about learning fast. He acknowledged his weakness and vowed to bounce back. Now that’s the mark of champ.

And so the journey continues for both, and the magic word towards a world title is “learning” from all this.

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