Champ in the making

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - April 15, 2021 - 12:00am

There are 31 Filipinos in the rosters of champions and top 10 contenders of the world’s most prestigious governing bodies, WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO. The five titleholders are super WBA welterweight champion in-recess Sen. Manny Pacquiao, WBC interim bantamweight ruler Reymart Gaballo, IBF superflyweight king Jerwin Ancajas, regular WBA minimumweight beltholder Vic Saludar and IBF minimumweight titlist Rene Mark Cuarto.

Featherweight Mark Magsayo is the only Filipino recognized by the four bodies at No. 5 by IBF, No. 6 by WBC, No. 8 by WBO and No. 10 by WBA. Minimumweight Melvin Jerusalem is ranked by three bodies at No. 2 by WBC, No. 4 by IBF and No. 5 by WBO. Two Filipinos are in the top 10 of two bodies – lightflyweight Mark Vicelles at No. 8 by WBO and No. 9 by WBC and minimumweight Mark John Rementizo at No. 6 by WBC and No. 8 by IBF.

Only one Filipino is ranked by three bodies in two different divisions. Mike Plania, 24, is listed No. 7 by WBA and No. 8 by IBF as a superbantamweight and No. 2 by WBO as a bantamweight. Plania boasts a 24-1 record, with 12 KOs and is unbeaten in his last nine outings, including four in a row in the US. His only loss was to former super WBA bantamweight champion Juan Carlos Payano of the Dominican Republic on a unanimous 10-round decision in Hollywood in 2018. Plania, however, decked Payano in the third round.

If there’s a world champion in the making, it’s Plania. In June last year, he defied the odds in flooring highly-touted Joshua Greer, Jr. twice enroute to pounding out a majority 10-round verdict at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. It should’ve been a unanimous decision but judge Dave Moretti had it 94-all even as judge Tim Cheathan saw it 96-92 and judge Patricia Morse Jarman scored it 97-91 for Plania.

Plania’s manager J. C. Manangquil said he’s planning an activity fight for the man called Magic in General Santos City maybe late this month before flying back to the US. “Mike’s visa is done but he just needs to get a schedule from the US Embassy,” said Manangquil. “The problem is the lockdown and there’s a clog of applications in the Embassy. Mike’s ready to fight anyone with a world title. He’ll fight anytime. If there’s a world title opportunity, you can never turn it down.” A tentative tune-up fight for Plania in Medley, Florida, on May 22 will likely be postponed. MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons said he’ll try to get Plania a world title shot this year.

Although ranked in two divisions, Plania isn’t expected to throw his hat in the crowded bantamweight derby and will focus on the superbantamweight class. Besides, his Sanman stablemate Gaballo is in the bantamweight mix. In the 122-pound ranks, the world champions are Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev (super WBA, IBF), the US’ Brandon Figueroa (regular WBA), Mexico’s Luis Nery (WBC) and the US’ Stephen Fulton (WBO).

In a recent issue of Boxing News weekly magazine of London, Plania was profiled in a full-page article by writer Paul Wheeler. Here are some quotes from Plania in the feature: “My best attribute as a boxer is my strong discipline. I eat nutritional foods. A bad diet can lessen your power. I like eating fish with vegetables. The last time I cried was (when) I won my fight against Greer. I was so happy that I cried tears of glory, to God be the glory. The worst rumor about me was after my fight against Greer, someone wrote on social media that I need to improve my boxing skills. My favorite fighter is my idol Manny Pacquiao. I’ve watched all his fights. The best fight I’ve seen is Pacquiao against Antonio Margarito. I love that fight because Pacquiao showed the perfect style and technique on how to beat a bigger fighter. I started boxing in the Philippines when I was nine because I wanted to help support my family. My best friends in boxing are my coach Moro Fernandez, my manager and promoter J. C. Manangquil and my gymmates Mark Bernaldez and Reymart. An athlete I would like to be is LeBron James because I like to play basketball. Not many people know a lot about my personal life nor do they know how good I really am as a boxer.”

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