Fistic fiesta in Cebu


Not a few local fight fans applauded the decision of ALA Boxing Promotions to change the venue for Nonito Donaire, Jr.’s April 23 defense of the WBO (World Boxing Organization) junior featherweight (122 pounds) championship. Originally pencilled to take place at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, the 12-round fight has been moved to the Cebu City Sports Complex.

Cebu, of course, happens to be the hotbed of Philippine boxing. This was the place where Bogo native Gabriel ‘Flash’ Elorde started his pro career in the early 1950s and eventually embarked on a seven-year reign (1960-67) as world junior lightweight (130 pounds) champion. Boxing cards held in Cebu, particularly the Pinoy Pride series of ALA Boxing Promotions and ABS-CBN, are often staged before sellout crowds.

Having proven themselves as faithful disciples of the local punch-for-pay business through thick and thin, it is only proper that Cebuanos are rewarded with a blockbuster card.

Donaire, 36-3 with 23 knockouts, is booked to make his initial defense of the WBO junior feather plum he regained last December against Mexican Cesar Juarez. In a free-swinging brawl that merited Fight of the Year nominations, Donaire survived several tense moments to eke out a unanimous decision.

Donaire is set to swap mitts with No.4 ranked contender and former Olympian Zsolt Bedak of Hungary. Nicknamed “Mr. Lefthook,” the 32-year-old Bedak, 25-1, with 8 knockouts, fought for the same WBO crown in 2010 but was stopped in 10 rounds by then champion Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. Bedak has since won his last 10 fights, albeit against pedestrian opposition. Still, considering that Donaire struggled against Juarez, Bedak is a live opponent. As an amateur, Bedak holds a victory over former world junior featherweight champion Abner Mares of Mexico.

Donaire-Bedak will serve as the main event in a card that is shaping up to be a competitive one. If plans to do not miscarry, newly-crowned WBO Youth featherweight (126 pounds) champ Mark “Magnifico” Magsayo (13-0, 10 knockouts) will test the mettle of former world title challenger Chris “Hitman” Avalos of California.

Avalos, 26-4, 19 knockouts, contended for the IBF (International Boxing Federation) junior featherweight crown last year but was stopped in five rounds by Carl Frampton. Avalos may not be the same fighter, but the 26-year-old pug arguably still has enough fire left to make a fight with relative newcomer Magsayo very interesting. Avalos holds victories over Filipinos Rey Perez, Drian Francisco and Rolly Lunas.

Undefeated junior featherweight prospect Jessie Magdaleno (23-0, 17 knockouts) of Las Vegas, Nevada, is also booked to make an appearance in the undercard against a still to be determined foe. Magdaleno is ranked No. 1 by the WBO and could be next in line for Donaire if the Filipino defeats Bedak. Magdaleno, the younger brother of former world title challenger Diego Magdaleno, has been calling out Donaire for some time now and it will be interesting to see him in action in the under¬card. Unlike his brother Diego who is a pure boxer, the diminutive Magdaleno is not afraid to mix it up and boasts of legit punching power.

Donaire, Magsayo, Avalos and Magdaleno. The appearance of these four boxers in the same card is already generating a lot of excitement. Local fight fans can smell world-class boxing this early and to think that the entire card has yet to be finalized. A fistic fiesta is really shaping up in Cebu.


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