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Mindanao boxers invade Cebu

When a boxing promoter from Mindanao holds a boxing event here in Cebu, that’s says a lot. And when he pits some of Mindanao’s world title prospects against tough Cebu-based opponents, that’s something else. That’s exactly what took place last week when Kenneth Rontal took Championship Boxing Development Philippines to Cebu for “Engkwentro sa Mandaue,” a five-bout card that introduced some of Mindanao’s gems to the Cebu Boxing scene. All the fights were competitive, entertaining and fun. The conclusion? There are indeed a lot of talented boxers in the country who can break into the world scene but they’re not that well-known (yet). In the Cebu Boxing scene, we’ve gotten used to seeing the top boxers from the ALA, Omega and Wakee Salud Gyms and a few others. Thus, the boxers we know are practically Cebu-based even if they may not be Cebu-born. With a bigger picture perspective, we have now seen some of Mindanao’s top boxers who are out to crowd the rest of the country’s top boxers for chances to win a world title. The scary but good news is that there are a lot of talents all over.

The main event of last weekend’s card turned out to be a spoiler for the promoter’s side as world ranked Vic Saludar (WBO #2) lost via a split decision to the upset-seeking Toto Landero of Manila. What was supposed to be a “tune-up” fight for Saludar, who was seeking a second world championship fight in the 105-pound division, turned out to be a breakthrough win for Landero who is now expected to crash into the world rankings of the World Boxing Organization. No wonder his manager Dante Almario had an ear-to-ear smile after the fight. Saludar will now have to press the reset button and work his way back. Other names worth mentioning in the 105-pound division are Robert Paradero (WBO #4) who also fought on the same card, Melvin Jerusalem (WBC # 3) who fights on July 8, and Rey Loreto (WBA #1) who fights for the world title on July 15.

In a WBO regional title fight, Vince Paras gave a good account of himself in an action-packed bakbakan, winning the WBO Youth Asia Pacific light flyweight title by unanimous decision in a war against Jimboy Haya of the Omega Boxing Gym. Not much was known about the undefeated 18-year-old pug from General Santos since all his fights were held in Mindanao. The highlight of his short career was his meeting Freddie Roach who gave him boxing gloves and a few tips before. This was even featured in a GMA news report. With Paras now assured of a slot in the WBO rankings, the 108-pound division is getting crowded with Pinoys. Jonathan Taconing is ranked #3, Jessie Espinas is ranked #5, and Christian Araneta is at #8. Milan Melindo is the current IBF light flyweight world champion while Randy Petalcorin is the IBF’s #4 contender.

The card also featured another world-ranked boxer in the 105-pound division in Robert “Kapitan Inggo” Paradero (WBO #4). He TKO’d Charlie Malupangue but not after getting to taste the power of his opponent. After settling down, he found his range, solved his opponent’s defense and sent him home on the seat of his pants. Paradero, who is also the current WBO Youth Asia Pacific minimumweight champion, could possibly overtake Vic Saludar in the world rankings but he may not be ripe enough for a shot at a world title (or is he?). I can only wonder what was going through WBO official Leon Panoncillo’s mind as he was watching the fights. Vic Saludar’s loss to Landero, coupled with Paradero’s win might shake up the world ranking of the Pinoys in the 105-pound division. Will we see a Landero-Paradero fight or a Saludar-Landero rematch?

The good news for the Saludar brothers was that Froilan Saludar scored a ninth round TKO over Salatiel Amit in another action-filled fight. Just when Saludar had Amit all figured out (sending him to the canvas twice in the first round), Amit refused to give in. Instead, he fought back like a wounded tiger, cut the distance, landed his own big punches, proving that this wasn’t going to be an easy win for the one-time world title challenger. It took a recommendation from the ring physician to call a timely halt to the fight to prevent further damage/injuries on Amit. I thought Froilan was the better Saludar that night, and he showed us why he can’t be counted out from another run at a world championship. He was technically sound and also had power.

The pretty highlight of the evening was Cebu’s first ladies boxing match in a long time. Casey Morton of the US outclassed Phannaluk Kongsang of Thailand via a lopsided unanimous decision to also announce her “arrival” in the Pinoy boxing scene. She was swift with her jabs and straights, moved around well, and peppered the Thai’s face all night long. Here’s wishing Casey all the best in her young career, and we hope to see more of her in Cebu.

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Kudos and thanks to Kenneth Rontal and the team from Championship Boxing Development Philippines for bringing boxing to Cebu and for the good fights. Looking forward to another “Engkwentro.” There will never be enough boxing in Cebu. Is JC Manangquil of Sanman Promotions (General Santos) now thinking about coming to Cebu, too? The more, the merrier.

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