More sweetening for ‘Azukal’

Ed C. Tolentino

Ed C. Tolentino

Genesis “Azukal” Servania successfully defended his World Boxing Organization (WBO) Intercontinental junior featherweight championship (122 pounds) by stopping Venezuelan Alexander “Explosivo” Muñoz at the recent edition of Pinoy Pride, but the consensus among boxing experts after the smoke of battle cleared is that the Filipino needs more sweetening if he is to seriously contend for the regular world championship.

While a former two-time world junior bantamweight (115 pounds) champion, Muñoz had been inactive for 10 months going into the fight. You can say that the guy was dug from the grave and fed directly to Servania on a silver platter. Servania predictably came out strong, assaulting Muñoz’s soft breadbasket and flooring him in the second round with a vicious right hand. Muñoz was turtle-slow in beating the ten-count and it looked like Servania was in for another no-sweat job.

As it turned out, Muñoz went as far as answering the bell for the 12th and final round. He even gave Servania plenty of trouble in the middle rounds when he started pelting the Filipino with nifty one-two combinations. Servania finally got the job done in the 12th round when he sent Muñoz crashing to the canvas with an overhand right. Muñoz was clearly in no condition to continue when referee Danrex Tapdasan waived the fight over.

Servania improved his record to 24-0 with 10 knockouts, but the fight exposed flaws in his arsenal. After scoring a knockdown in the second round, he abandoned his judicious counterpunching and went headhunting in an attempt at a devastating knockout victory. Servania has a bad habit of getting overzealous on offense and it manifested again in the Muñoz fight. Instead of working behind his left jab to set up his right hand, Servania kept swinging for the fence.

Though in his dog years at age 35, Muñoz’ 16-year experience and ring guile allowed him to last longer than expected. Muñoz’s elementary sidestep moves allowed him to dodge Servania’s wild lunges. By the middle rounds, with Servania’s offense sputtering to the level of him just plainly stalking, Muñoz’s one-two counters started finding their mark with alarming frequency.

Servania was sleepwalking when he banged heads with Muñoz in the eighth stanza. The unintentional head-butt opened a deep and bloody cut on Servania’s left eye, but it also woke him up from his slumber. Servania sprang back to life and came out smoking in the ninth round, bombarding Muñoz’s body with an assortment of blows. One huge left to the stomach sent Muñoz crumbling to the canvas for the second time. Surprisingly, Muñoz beat the count and survived the round.

Muñoz survived the next two rounds as Servania abandoned the body assault and went headhunting again. The fight seemed headed to the scorecards when Servania finally unloaded the big right hand that caught Muñoz right on the temple.

Officially, it went down as a technical knockout victory for Servania, but you can say that it is back to the drawing board for the fighter. Servania will have to work on cutting the ring better because an ancient Muñoz was able to easily sidestep his wild rushes. Reigning WBO junior featherweight king Guillermo Rigondeux of Cuba would run rings around Servania and box his way to a clear-cut victory if they were to square off tomorrow. Servania must also learn the value of patience and putting his punches together.

The good thing about the entire situation is that Servania, at age 22, still has all the time in the world to hone his craft. That Servania is already one of the best Filipino prospects in the 122-pound division is already a given fact, what remains to be unanswered is if he has what it takes to go to the next level.

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