The first cut is the deepest, but in the case of super bantamweight ‘Prince’ Albert Pagara, we are talking Marianas Trench deep as he has never tasted defeat both as an amateur or pro before he unceremoniously bowed to Mexican Cesar Juarez.
Pagara had roared to 26 straight wins as a pro and vaulted to as high as No. 2 in the super bantamweight rankings of the World Boxing Organization (WBO) when he took on Juarez. But not a few thought going into the fight that Pagara had been relatively untested and that Juarez might just be the guy to rattle his cage.
Pagara got off to a rip-roaring start, knocking down Juarez in the first round with a well-timed left hook. The ringside cognoscenti, however, had seen it before and the alarm went off when Juarez got back on his feet. You see, Juarez is no stranger to locking lips with the canvas; it’s actually what gets his motor running.
When Juarez fell down twice in the fourth round against Nonito Donaire Jr. last December, he rebounded like crazy and assaulted Donaire without remorse. Donaire had to dig deep in his arsenal to survive Juarez’s ferocity and win by decision. Overall, the knockdown in the Pagara fight was the eighth in Juarez’s career, but on each occasion he rose back on his feet and gallantly fought his way back regardless of the outcome.
When Juarez picked himself up in the opening round against Pagara, somehow that’s when I felt the fight was actually on. True enough, Juarez constantly hounded Pagara and bombarded him with vicious shots to the body. Pagara continued to counter well, but as the fight dragged, fatigue became his worst enemy.
When Pagara slumped to his corner at the end of the seventh stanza, the fight seemed over right then and there. It was a surprise that Pagara was able to answer the eighth round bell because he looked more like a volunteer zombie for the television show The Walking Dead. Juarez knew Pagara’s tank was drained and the Mexican bolted out from his corner and unloaded a three-punch combination that dumped Pagara to the canvas. Pagara made an effort to get up, but he instead slumped forward and hit the canvas face-first.
Juarez bounced back into title contention with the smashing knockout win while Pagara was left with a tattered future to ponder on. Still, at age 22, Pagara still has time on his side and can even learn from other great fighters who went through the same ordeal.
Manny Pacquiao left boxing and contemplated retirement after he was knocked out cold by Rustico Torrecampo in 1996. It was Pacquiao’s first pro loss and he took it hard. But upon realizing that he was better off resuming combat in the ring than laying bricks in a construction site, Pacquiao returned with a firmer resolve.
Pacquiao, however, was able to recover fast because the loss to Torrecampo was not “high profile.” If not for YouTube, nobody would even remember the humiliating setback in a local fight card in Mandaluyong. It’s different in the case of Pagara because the loss came amid all the razzmatazz in the United States.
More than the physical scars, Pagara (26-1, 18 knockouts) will have to deal with the mental debris that tend to linger. But from where this writer sits, I’d take the loss to Juarez than another one-sided beating of a hapless foe because Pagara stands to learn something from this debacle. Pagara has to go back to the drawing board and work on the chinks in his armor which he mistakenly thought was already impregnable. For starters, Pagara may want to work on his conditioning, or the lack of it, which hastened his downfall.
And, oh, in the event he elects to lace on the gloves again, it wouldn’t hurt if Pagara ditches the colorful outfit and hairdo. He needs to completely embrace the mindset of a gladiator, and this means making ferocity, not vanity, his priority.
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