World-ranked contenders Genesis “Azukal” Servania and Jason “El Nino” Pagara posted contrasting victories in the recent “Pinoy Pride 29” fight card held at the packed University of Southeastern Philippines gym in Davao City. Undefeated WBO Intercontinental junior featherweight (122 pounds) titlist Servania went the full 12-round distance and settled for a unanimous decision win over Mexican Juan Luis Hernandez while Pagara successfully defended his WBO International junior welterweight (140 pounds) diadem with a two-round drubbing of Mexican Cesar “El Dolar” Chavez.
Servania was expected to have a walk in the park against Hernandez. The 32-year-old Hernandez was figuring in only his second fight after three years of inactivity and showed up in the ring with a lot of ring rust. Servania, however, failed to capitalize as he looked tentative to let his fists go in the first half of the fight. Servania stalked Hernandez but hesitated on pulling the trigger when he got close. The 23-year-old Bacolod City native started out his career as an excellent counter-puncher but in recent fights he has been planting his feet and throwing bombs. In the Hernandez fight, however, he just couldn’t figure out if he wanted to be a gung-ho slugger or a patient counterpuncher.
Servania’s indecisiveness on offense allowed Hernandez to land some nifty four-punch combinations in the middle rounds. Fortunately for Servania, he found his rhythm in the last three rounds to pocket the decision. All three judges tabbed Servania the winner by lopsided scores of 118-110, 119-109 and 117-111, but this writer thought the score should have been closer.
Servania improved his record to 26-0 with 11 knockouts. He is ranked No.1 by the WBO in the 122-pound division and looms as the mandatory contender to reigning champion Guillermo Rigondeux of Cuba. Rigondeux is a very slick counterpuncher and it is safe to say that Servania will have his hands full against the champion. If Hernandez derailed Servania’s wild rushes with a simple sidestep maneuver, Rigondeaux will run rings around the Filipino all night long. Fortunately for Servania, there are reports brewing that Rigondeux is planning to move up to the featherweight (126 pounds) class. If this happens, the WBO throne will be declared vacant and Servania could end up rubbing mitts with No.2 contender Jessie Magdaleno of the United States. Magdaleno boasts of an undefeated record (20-0, 15 knockouts), but he is relatively untested. He became a father last year and as a consequence fought only twice in 2014. In his most recent outing in January, Magdaleno looked out of shape in scoring a decision over Erik Ruiz.
Pagara, the No.4 ranked jr. welterweight by the WBO, is also treading shark-infested waters. He trails in the rankings former champion Chris Algieri, Argentinian power puncher Lucas Matthysse and Russian punching juggernaut Ruslan Provodnikov. This is quite an awesome bunch and Pagara apparently knows it as he is eyeing instead a shot at the WBA regular title held by Jessie Vargas of the United States. Vargas is undefeated in 26 fights but has tallied only nine knockouts. The American barely retained the title in his last defense in November against hard-punching Mexican Antonio DeMarco. The way Pagara sees it; he has a better chance against the pillow-fisted Vargas. Of course, Vargas is eyeing a million-dollar fight with Manny Pacquiao in the event negotiations for a fight between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. fail.
Pagara, 26, totes a record of 34-2 with 22 knockouts. Pagara’s two losses have been via decisions only and he has been gathering steam lately, having won his last 8 fights. Against Chavez, Pagara displayed awesome punching power. He floored Chavez twice in the opening round using body blows and then finished off the Mexican in the second round with a howitzer left hook.
Pagara and Servania figure to be in the thick of a title hunt this year. The journey to a throne figures to be a very bumpy one owing to the quality of fighters in their respective weight divisions, but if they play their cards right Servania and Pagara might just end up as big winners.
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