Palicte rues early stoppage
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - June 21, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Aston Palicte failed in his second bid to win the vacant WBO superflyweight title but insisted referee Kenny Chevalier acted prematurely in stopping his fight against Japan’s Kazuto Ioka at 1:46 of the 10th round at the Makuhari Messe Hall in Chiba City last Wednesday night.

Chevalier, the third man in the ring when Ryosuke Iwasa outpointed Filipino Ernesto Saulong to retain his IBF superbantamweight crown in Tokyo last year, stepped in as Ioka rained a series of unanswered blows on Palicte. Ioka was ahead in the three judges’ scorecards when Chevalier, a Maryland native, stopped it. Judge Leszek Jankowiak of Poland had it 88-83 while judges Philip Austin of Australia and Richard Blouin of Canada saw it both 87-84.

“Bakit tinigil ng referee?” moaned the 28-year-old Palicte shortly after the fight in a phone interview. “Kaya ko pa naman. Hindi ako bumagsak. Balak kong bumawi sa last two rounds at alam ko, pagod na si Ioka. May hangin pa ako. Tinamaan niya ako at bigla siyang sumugod. Good fighter si Ioka but mas magaling sa kanya si Donnie (Nietes). Payag ako mag-rematch, anywhere, anytime. Kung gusto niya sa Japan uli, ok sa akin.”

Palicte’s manager Jason Soong, who watched at ringside with former two-time world champion Gerry Peñalosa, said he was disappointed with the ending. “It was an early stoppage,” said Soong. “But that’s how it is in boxing. Maybe, Aston should’ve taken a knee in the 10th round but even if Ioka won the round, 10-8, I was confident he would come back. Gerry and I thought Aston was up one or two rounds before the 10th but we felt the margin was too thin. The fight was in Japan so for anyone to beat a Japanese, you would need a much bigger margin to win a decision.”

Soong said he knew Palicte would weather the storm after getting tagged by Ioka with a right counter in the 10th. “Aston would’ve gone all out to stop Ioka in the last two rounds if the referee didn’t stop it,” he said. “We were expecting to win but we also realized we were up against the homecourt advantage.”

Ioka, 30, became the first Japanese male fighter to win world titles in four divisions by annexing the WBO 115-pound championship. He had previously captured the WBA/WBC minimumweight, WBA lightflyweight and WBA flyweight title belts. Female fighter Naoko Fujioka, 43, holds the Japanese record of world titles in five divisions. Her collection lists the WBC minimumweight, WBO lightflyweight, WBA flyweight, WBA superflyweight and WBO bantamweight crowns. Her record is 18-2, with 7 KOs, and she is set to stake her WBA flyweight crown against Tenkai Tsunami on July 12.

Palicte’s chief trainer and former WBC lightflyweight champion Rodel Mayol said he rushed towards Chevalier to protest after the fight was called. “Nagkulang ang referee,” said Mayol. “Hindi tama ang ginawa niya. Kaya pa ni Aston. Hindi siya bumagsak at naglalakad pa nga. Paubos na si Ioka. Alam ko makaka-recover si Aston sa last two rounds at bubuhosin niya ang lahat.”

Mayol said Ioka executed a fight plan that neutralized Palicte’s power punching style. “Nag-training si Ioka sa US with (Cuban) Ismael Salas,” he said. “Bumalik sa Japan only one week ago kaya akala ko may jet-lag pa. Good cornerman si Salas, maganda ang kanyang strategy – galaw, jab, iwas at pagurin si Aston. Balak namin sagasaan si Ioka. More aggressive si Aston. Sa seventh round, sinugod ni Aston going for a knockout but nakaiwas si Ioka.”

Mayol said he thought it would be an easy fight for Palicte but never underestimated Ioka. “Hindi namin akalain na ganoon ang ending,” he said. “Maraming nakalaban si Aston na mas magaling kay Ioka at napatumba niya.” For the moment, Mayol said he advised Palicte to take one or two months off, forget about boxing and drive away negative thoughts. “Sabi ko sa kanya, huwag niyang isipin yung mga bad comments sa social media,” said Mayol. “Sigurado ako, makakabalik si Aston na mas determined at mas malakas.”

Palicte’s American promoter and former world champion Roy Jones Jr. phoned from the US and spoke to cutman Ting Arriosa. “Sabi ni Roy kay Ting, sabihin kay Aston ‘don’t give up,’” said Mayol. The loss dropped Palicte’s record to 25-3-1, with 21 KOs. Last September, Palicte and Nietes fought to a split 12-round draw for the vacant WBO superflyweight title. The win raised Ioka’s recod to 24-2, with 14 KOs. It was Ioka’s first abbreviated win in his last four outings. Team Palicte arrived in Manila yesterday.

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