THE ILLEGAL PUNCH OF PEREZ LEFT MANY QUESTIONS UNANSWERED FOR BANAL
01 Nov 2010
Promising Filipino bantamweight AJ 'Bazooka' Banal shut out two-division champion Luis Alberto Perez of Nicaragua in the first six rounds of their fight Saturday night at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City but early in the seventh round, Perez caught Banal with a good left that sent Banal backward towards the ropes.
Perez, sensing a chance to put away his tormentor in the early rounds, pursued the Ermita, Cebu residence and rained on him a barrage of punches some of it got through Banal's defenses and caused perhaps the big cut on Banal's left eye brow.
Banal, who appeared to be hurt, grabbed Perez's body and clinched. Referee Silvestre Abainza, a veteran of many world title fights who was positioned at the back of Banal facing Perez in that instance, tried to grab Banal from behind to separate him from Perez but missed Banal's body as Banal's momentum pushed him away from the referee. Abainza pursued Banal who was still holding Perez's body and finally was able to grab Banal from behind to separate the two combatants. It was then that Perez, after entangling himself from Banal's embrace and seeing some distance, threw a right hook that landed squarely to Banal's cheek -- clearly an illegal punch as it was thrown after the referee separated them.
Banal staggered backward and then fell flat on the canvas. He attempted to get up several times but appeared too weak to stand up. Abainza then informed the ring officials that Banal was unfit to continue and declared Banal the winner by disqualification at 1:46 of the 7th round.
The sudden stoppage of the contest left many questions for Banal and also one for Perez.
Let's start with veteran 32-year-old Nicaraguan first whose got the nickname 'El Demoledor' (The Demolition Man). Coming in to the fight with two championship belts and cleary the bigger man, Perez was outboxed and outpunched by the speedy power-punching Cebuano in the first six rounds and although seen visibly hurt during the fifth and sixth rounds, Perez seemed to weather Banal's most lethal punches. Team Perez's plan, as revealed by assistant Mike Lopez after the fight, taking a leaf from Banal's lone defeat against Rafael Concepcion, was to tire Banal in the early rounds and go for the kill in the later rounds. Perez's chance came with that well-timed left straight that backed out Banal early in the seventh round and a barrage of follow-ups that clearly hurt Banal.
By throwing that illegal punch, Perez however lost the opportunity to finish off Banal if he would have been disqualified as he did. Team Perez's argument after the fight that the final punch thrown by Perez was legal doesn't hold water because the referee clearly tried to separate both boxers twice in full view of the Perez before the Nicaraguan threw that punch.
Two things could have been going in for Perez at that point. First, after the beating he took from Banal thus far, Perez, weakened, had already lost his balance and was in pure survival mode and sensing that he had Banal badly hurt, wanted to finish off the Filipino right there and then not thinking that what he had done was already against the rules of boxing. Second, his penchant for fighting dirty got the better of him and may haunt him in the future for having this fight slipped away from his hands. During Saturday's fight, as his wont with his other fights, Perez gave a few elbows, low blows and headbutts here and there and hitting after breaks. Referee Ver Abainza had warned Perez for throwing elbows, hitting after the break and low blows and kept reminding him to keep his punches up. Veteran boxing writer Tim Starks, who wrote that he was not surprised with the disqualification result of Saturday's fight, describes Perez as "one of the dirtiest fighters around."
Perez took a long trip back home to Managua Sunday most likely pondering the what ifs of Saturday's exciting bout and probably having images of Banal laying flat on the canvas trying to repeatedly get up -- acting or otherwise -- in his mind. But the abrupt end of the fight courtesy of El Demoledor's wayward right should be blamed squarely on Perez whose extra dirty motion cost him the fight.
As for Banal, the stigma of the Concepcion loss continues to hound him -- warranted or unwarranted, fairly or unfairly -- but sometimes bitter memories are very difficult to erase. The fight against Perez failed to ease any of that and may have only fortified the old issue to the minds of many.
Objectively however, Saturday's fight failed to answer Banal's question of stamina. Banal was still going strong at the end of the sixth round where it appeared he was ready to take the Nicaraguan out. The fact was Banal got caught with a good left by Perez in the seventh round and the ensuing barrage by Perez appeared to hurt him. Whether Banal was riped to be knocked out at that point remains a conjecture. When asked right after the fight how he felt before that sucker punch that floored him, Banal told us he was quite alright and ready to continue to fight. Banal's dizzying pace in the first six rounds may have given the impression that he was giving his all and was expected to sputter in the later rounds. A counter argument may be raised that Banal's new found speed and agility could be the result of his new conditioning regimen. But since the fight didn't go the full route the question of Banal's stamina is left hanging in the air. Banal's hitting the canvas because of the illegal punch I don't think was caused by Banal's stamina or lack of it.
Was Banal acting? Having recently signed with Philippine entertainment giant Viva Entertainment, some have suggested that Banal was exhibiting his acting abilities. This is funny but one thing to consider is when a boxer is hit with an unexpected punch, the impact is almost always devastating and that sucker punch that fell Banal is one of those. That the fight ended the way it was not Banal's fault at all.
Lost in the drama was Banal's excellent performance against a grizzled veteran and two divisions champion who was much bigger and considerably has much longer reach than the Ermita boy. Banal treated the highly confident Perez like target practice in the first six rounds. If that spectacle happened in PPE (Pre Pacquiao Era) of Philippine boxing, that performance would be awe-inspiring. But blame it on the Gensan legend who raised the bar too high that an outstanding performance by another Filipino boxer is only met with a hiccup. This is also perhaps caused by a subconscious frustration for failing to find another Manny Pacquiao.
Where does Banal go from here? The current incarnation of the 'Bazooka' in boxing is still one of the finest boxing talents in the Philippines. At 21 years old, he's got a lot of future ahead of him and AJ could still become one of Philippines' outstanding boxing champions in the future.
Top photo: Banal (R) connects with a right against Perez during their fight Saturday night at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City. Photo by King Catriz.
Click here for a complete listing of columns by this author.
Click here for a complete listing of this author's articles from different news sources.
PhilBoxing.com has been created to support every aspiring
Filipino boxer and the Philippine boxing scene in general.
Please send comments to email@example.com