Pagara’s turn to shine



With bantamweight AJ “Bazooka” Banal still recovering from the tough knockout loss he suffered in the hands of Thai Pungluang Sor Singyu last year and featherweight Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista recently announcing his retirement after dropping a decision to Mexican Jose Ramirez, super lightweight (140 pounds) Jason “El Niño” Pagara has been suddenly elevated to prime time status and asked to carry the mantle for ALA Boxing Promotions’ world title hopefuls.

On Saturday, at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City, Pagara (30-2, 19 knockouts) will spearhead “Pinoy Pride XX” opposite Mexican Aaron “La Hoya” Herrera (25-1, 17 knockouts). The 12-round clash for the World Boxing Organization International super lightweight title figures to be a knuckle-fest owing to the proven punching power of the combatants. Pagara’s last nine victories have come by knockout, seven within the first two rounds. On the other hand, Herrera’s last two victories have come by knockout within the first round.

“Jason is in great condition. Pinaghandaan talaga namin ang laban na ito,” ex-world title challenger and ALA Boxing Promotions head trainer Edito Villamor told this writer.

Herrera, 22, definitely has no plans to just roll over and play dead. The native of Yucatan, Mexico turned pro in 2006 and won his first 24 fights before dropping a decision to Fernando Garcia in July 2012. He rebounded strongly from the defeat by stopping Jorge Pimentel in one round in his last ring outing.

The lanky Herrera moves well in the ring and owns a dangerous left jab/hook. In June 2011, he collared the WBC Mundo Hispano lightweight (135 pounds) crown with a devastating sixth round knockout of Alirio Rivero. A spearing left jab, immediately followed by a short left hook, decapitated Rivero in an instant. “Malakas din at skillful boxer siya,” said Villamor. “Maganda ang record ni Herrera, pero pinaghandaan namin talaga siya.”

Herrera’s armor, though, is far from being impregnable. He does not move his head particularly well, fights in a stand-up mode and is a sucker for the left hook. Pagara, arguably the harder puncher, figures to rattle Herrera’s stationary temple with his vaunted right straight. Pagara’s vicious left hook to the ribcage will also test Herrera’s durability. It was Pagara’s savage body attack which sank Mexican Rosbel Montoya last year and gave the Filipino ring prospect the WBO International super lightweight crown. Pagara successfully defended the regional belt with a first-round knockout of Miguel Antoine in October 2012 and will make his second defense against Herrera.

“Yung strength ni Jason magaling siyang magpatama,” said Villamor. “Marunong siyang mag-timing sa suntok at saka may power talaga.”

Neither Herrera nor Pagara has been on the receiving end of a ten-count. Herrera actually knocked down Garcia before losing on points. Pagara’s two losses have been decision setbacks to countryman Rey Anton Olarte in December 2007 and Montoya in September 2011. Pagara defeated Olarte in their first meeting in August 2007 while he avenged the loss to Montoya by flattening the Mexican in August 2012. Pagara blamed the first loss to Montoya to overconfidence and a slew of personal problems.

Pagara is campaigning in the super lightweight division which happens to be loaded with fistic talent. The World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Council (WBC) unified champion is American Danny Garcia (26-0, 16 knockouts) while the International Boxing Federation (IBF) is American Lamont Peterson (31-2, 16 knockouts). Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez (55-6, 40 knockouts) sits as the WBO champion but he is likely to give up the crown or be stripped of it if he defeats Timothy Bradley on October 12 for the WBO welterweight (147 pounds) title. The current interim WBO super lightweight champ, Denver native Mike Alvarado (34-1, 23 knockouts), is the most beatable titleholder in the weight class.

Pagara is still a long way from earning elite status in the 140-pound division, but the road going there figures to start this weekend against Herrera.

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