Price of ‘Azukal’ Servania just went up

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ED C. TOLENTINO

While the entire boxing world was debating on the real winner of the middleweight title showdown between Gennady Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (the fight was ruled a draw but for the record I scored the fight for Golovkin), a little-known Filipino pug made the long trip from Japan to Tucson, Arizona, to challenge the champion many consider as the best featherweight (126 lbs.) today. Officially, our guy lost by decision, but he left the scene of the battle with the respect of just about every fight fan who appreciated his spirited effort.

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Bacolod native Genesis ‘Azukal’ (Sugar) Servania, a member of the ALA boxing stable in Cebu until he relocated to Japan in 2015, made the long sojourn to Arizona to face unbeaten World Boxing Organization (WBO) featherweight champ Oscar Valdez. The 12-round match took place at the Convention Center in Tucson, Arizona, where Mexican native Valdez partially grew up and made one of his initial appearances as an amateur fighter. You can say it was a homecoming of sort for Valdez as his entire family and numerous fans were in attendance. Sports cable giant ESPN was on hand to cover the fight and air it in over 150 countries.

The media was solely focused on Valdez as Servania stood by his lonesome in his corner in the typical ‘me against the world’ scenario. In the early rounds, it appeared that Servania was destined to be nothing more than a sacrificial lamb as Valdez peppered him with a plethora of left hooks. In the fourth stanza, however, Servania caught a backtracking Valdez with a good left to the body/right to the head combination that dumped the Mexican champion to the canvas.

Valdez was quick to regain equal footing, but Servania was a different fighter from then on. In the fifth round, Valdez returned the favor by sending Servania crashing to the canvas with a hard left hook. Servania was clearly hurt, but he refused to stay down and gamely beat the count. Instead of retreating, Servania jumped back into the cauldron and traded volcanic punches with Valdez.

Valdez controlled the tempo of the fight with his volume punching, but Servania remained a threat with his dreaded counters. In the 11th, Valdez hurt Servania again, but the Filipino came out for the 12th and final round with both guns blazing.

When the rosin settled, Valdez (23-0, 19 knockouts) retained the WBO hardware on a unanimous decision, but Servania earned his share of newfound admirers for giving the champion arguably the toughest fight of his career. Valdez’s mug sported bruises and lumps and his handlers tried to downplay it by stating that the champ figured in unnecessary exchanges to please the hometown crowd. Bluntly speaking, Valdez’s camp underestimated Servania.

The son of a felon and a fish vendor, Servania once drove a tricycle to earn a living. He turned to pro boxing in 2009 and showed immense promise with his excellent counterpunching skills. Then again, by the time he left the ALA boxing stable in 2015, Servania appeared lacking in motivation. Servania relocated to Japan and inked a managerial deal with Japanese Naoyuki Kashimi, but he only saw limited action in the country, figuring in only one fight in 2016.

Servania’s gusty showing against Valdez definitely gave his career a major boost. Servania absorbed his first loss in 30 fights (29-1, 12 knockouts), but there is clearly no shame in losing to a great fighter like Valdez. “I knew he felt my power,” said Servania, who thought the scoring should have been much closer (an opinion shared by many at ringside).

At age 26, Servania still has time on his side. If he stays the course, another world title shot is on the horizon. Servania’s counterpunching skills remain excellent, but he will really have to work on upgrading his offense as it was Valdez’s busier work rate that pulled him through. There were occasions in the fight when Servania appeared to be just waiting to land the big counter.

Servania bankrolled $55,000, a measly sum compared to Valdez’s $400,000 pay. Make no mistake, though, the price of ‘Azukal’ just went up and sweeter deals may be instore for Servania.

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For comments, the writer can be reached at atty_eduardo@yahoo.com.

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