What ALA is doing right
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - October 18, 2015 - 10:00am

The Pinoy Pride 33 or “Philippines vs the World” card held at the StubHub Center in Carson, California yesterday broke many barriers for Philippine boxing. Five years in the making, it impelled the city council to declare the occasion “Pinoy Pride Day” in the city, complete with performances from Geneva Cruz and other musical talents, the card showed what a Filipino promoter was capable of. In fact, it was the first Asian promotion in the mainland US.

After an entertaining six-round decision win by the diminutive Bruno Escalante against Nestor Ramos, it was Jason Pagara’s turn to break the ice for the ALA boxers, against the intimidating Santos Benavides. In the first round, Benavides allowed Pagara to whale away at him, thinking he could withstand the onslaught. Prior to winning his last two fights by knockout, Benavides had lost his last five, four of them by knockout, as well. But since moving up in weight, he became much more comfortable, a potential sign of trouble for the older Pagara. For a while, it looked like Benavides was solid in that knowledge, as he got past the first round none the worse for wear. But in the second round, he quickly saw the error of his ways, as Pagara send him to the canvas with a crushing left hook to the body midway through the round. The Nicaraguan (25 wins, seven losses) took a while to get up, then collapsed after Pagara hammered him in the bread basket. Benavides, trying to catch his breath, complained of a low blow, which it obviously was not. Seconds later came the end. Pagara threw a right-left-right combination that finally floored Benavides for good. Jason Pagara won his ninth fight in a row, and set himself up for a possible world title fight next year.

On paper, the Mark Magsayo-Yardley Suarez fight looked to be a great match-up. Magnifico’s record was 11-0 with eight knockouts, while Suarez was at 13-0 with nine KOs. Both were fighting in the US for the first time, but Suarez had never even fought outside his hometown of Sinaloa in Mexico. But since Suarez had had a taste of Magsayo’s power, you could see uncertainty in his eyes. It proved justified, as the 20-year old Magsayo sent him to the canvas twice in the opening round, finishing him off in just two minutes to retain his IBF youth featherweight belt.

“Prince” Albert Pagara was coming off a similar two-minute win in his previous fight in Dubai, and was ranged against Nicaraguan William “Chirizo” Gonzalez. The challenger carried a 27-win,  five-loss record with 23 knockouts, but had rarely ventured outside his hometown. In his last fight, Gonzalez had won the vacant WBA North American Boxing Association title at the expense of Cornelius Lock, then was inactive for a year. Pagara, ranked third in the world by the IBF, and sixth by the WBC and WBO, was a showman, entering the ring with his trademark blonde half-Mohawk and neon green trunks, socks and shoes. But he needed another statement win to get the attention of fans in America.

Pagara started strong, as usual, though he still showed restraint. Near the end of the second round, he pounded the contender with a barrage that sent him to the seat of his pants. But Pagara threw a right hook at Gonzalez’s head while he was down, causing referee Jack Reiss to give Gonzalez a two-minute respite and almost cost him the fight. Reiss told Pagara he was giving him the benefit of the doubt by not disqualifying him, and the Gonzalez survived the round. During the break, Reiss went over to the corner and reiterated his warning. In the next round, Gonzalez recovered, though he was repeatedly getting away with rabbit punches to the back of Pagara’s head. In round five, Pagara regained control, sending his opponent reeling with a right straight, then following this up moments later with a left-right combo that wobbled the contender.

In round six, Pagara made sure it would be the end, demolishing Gonzalez with a left-right combination that caused him to collapse to the bottom of the ropes by the 2:20 mark. Chirizo was so dazed that he just sat there, unresponsive to questions from the referee and ring physician for minutes. Luckily, he came to his senses. It was Albert’s 18th KO in 25 fights, and his record remained spotless.

The main event ended up with Juan “Pinky” Alejo an additional statistic to Donnie Nietes’ compilation. Alejo lost his first three fights, then had not lost since, stringing up 21 wins, 13 by knockout. After the first couple of rounds, it was clear that Nietes was the superior fighter. Most of the Mexican’s blows were bouncing off Donnie’s gloves and forearms. The WBO light flyweight champion rocked the challenger several times, blackening his right eye and swelling his left cheek. Nietes suffered a miniscule cut on the corner of his left eye, but the result of the fight would not be changed. The Filipino was so dominant, one judge scored it a shutout while the two others only gave one round to Alejo.

What has ALA been doing right? Firstly, they take their time. It took two years to get a permit from the California State Athletic Commission, and ALA through CEO Michael Aldeguer went through all the proper channels. It had never been done before, so their learning curve had to be quite steep. Secondly, they have been taking risks, paying the appropriate purses for current or former world champions and world-ranked opponents for their boys, as it should be. Nietes, for example, is 12-0-1 in world title fights, with five knockouts. That is an impressive stat in and of itself. Third, ALA remembers its friends. Each Pinoy Pride promotion is an occasion for members of the media from Cebu and Metro Manila to travel to wherever the fights are, further strengthening the relationship. Fourth, the long partnership with ABS-CBN Sports has been a great synergy between the two, and each has grown because of it. One makes great boxing events, the other has media and sales muscle to pump up the volume on fight cards. This latest Pinoy Pride is another step up, another first to build upon.

* * *

Congratulations for SEAir COO Patrick Tan for successfully defending his Masters title at the Shawn Rhoden Classic held at the Midas Hotel Saturday. Tan, 51, is the only man to have owned the title since the event started last year. A record number of participants from different countries entered the competition, double the number of its maiden edition in 2014.


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