Five years ago, at the Cebu Coliseum, Panamanian slugger Rafael “El Torito” Concepcion knocked out the previously unbeaten Aj “Bazooka” Banal to post the biggest victory by a visiting boxer in the popular boxing series Pinoy Pride. On Saturday, Concepcion is returning to Cebu City looking to crush the title aspirations of another undefeated Filipino boxer.
Concepcion, 18-6 with 8 knockouts, is booked to challenge Genesis “Azukal” Servania for the vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) Intercontinental super bantamweight (122 pounds) championship in the main event of Pinoy Pride XXIIat the Waterfront Hotel and Casino. Concepcion is facing another unbeaten prospect in Servania, who totes a record of 22-0 with 8 demolitions. Servania is not a big puncher like Banal, but the 22-year-old prospect from Bacolod City offers an air-tight defense, good lateral movement and above-par counterpunching skills. Servania, though, is coming off a gruelling nine-round technical decision win over Japanese Konosuke Tomiyama in July. Abandoning his usual safety-first approach, Servania came out swinging against Tomiyama and almost paid the price.
Servania was knocked down twice in the opening round, but returned the favor by flooring Tomiyama in the first and third rounds. A cut on the left eye of Servania caused by an accidental head-butt prematurely ended the contest in the ninth stanza and the Filipino was declared the winner for being ahead on points at the time of the stoppage.
Against Concepcion, it will serve Servania well to go back to his cautious and methodical approach. Concepcion is a relentless pressure fighter; the type of pugilist who earns his victory by wearing down his adversary. Banal rocked Concepcion on several occasions and came close to stopping him, but the Panamanian proved to be a tough nut to crack. Banal wilted in the tail-end and Concepcion was awarded a knockout win in the 10th round.
Concepcion has won four of his last five fights, but not a few doubt if he can duplicate the win he pulled off against Banal five years ago. After the win over Banal, Concepcion was stopped in nine rounds by Mexican Jorge Arce in a battle for the interim World Boxing Association (WBA) super flyweight (115 pounds) title in September 2008. Eleven months later, Filipino Nonito Donaire, Jr. whipped an overweight Concepcion in 12 rounds. In July 2010, Concepcion moved up to the bantamweight division (118 pounds) and was brutally knocked out in three rounds by then World Boxing Council (WBC) and WBO 118-pound king Fernando Montiel.
Concepcion was inactive in 2012 and did not resurface until April 2013, when he scored a six-round unanimous decision over Alejandro Corrales. In his last fight, August 3, Concepcion looked pedestrian in scoring an eight-round decision over German Lara.
Concepcion is older (31 years old), heavier and rusty, but he apparently remains confident that he can beat Servania. Upon arriving in Cebu, he vowed to stop Servania and gifted the Filipino with a pillow. Concepcion’s trainer, Rigoberto Garibaldi, who used to train former WBA minimumweight champ Rosendo Alvarez, is confident that the former will show up in good condition.
Servania-Concepcion figures to be an exciting tussle owing to the contrasting styles of the combatants. Concepcion is the perpetually rushing bull while Servania is the more refined boxer-counterpuncher. Concepcion has faced better opposition in his 11-year pro career but is now battling Father Time. Concepcion is ripe for the taking and Servania is only too willing to finish him off.
k k k
For comments, the writer can be reached at atty_eduardo @yahoo.com.