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List of Articles by Myron Sta. Ana

Vacant IBF Bantamweight title now at Stake for #1 Vusi Malinga of South Africa and #5 Leo Santa Cruz of Mexico; #3 AJ Banal Set Aside and Might Have to Wait

By Myron Sta. Ana
04 May 2012

Malinga / Sta. Cruz.
ALA Boxing Promotions’ IBF #3 and current WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion, AJ “Bazooka” Banal (27-1-1, 20 KOs) might have to wait for his turn to fight for the IBF belt a little longer or his handlers might not have any plan to have him fight for this organization at all.

This is because Golden Boy Promotions, with Showtime backing them up, has already announced the vacant IBF Bantamweight championship fight between the tall and lanky Vusi “Marvelous” Malinga (20-3-1, 12 KOs) of South Africa who’s top-ranked in the latest IBF ratings and IBF #5 Leo “Teremoto” Santa Cruz (19-0-1, 11 KOs) of Mexico on June 3rd (June 2nd in the States) at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. This fight is going to be one of the supporting bouts underneath the main event featuring newly-minted IBO Cruiserweight champion, Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver (29-6-0, 20 KOs) defending his belt for the 1st time against Nigerian Lateef “Power” Kayode (18-0-0, 14 KOs).

The Filipino public is not really aware of what ALA Boxing Promotions’ plan for him is at this point but this might be considered as a wasted opportunity considering that he has been fighting for seven years now and it is about time that he fights for a legitimate world title; not something Interim or Silver; worse Regional. Also, hardcore and casual fight fans alike know that fighting #1 Vusi Malinga would have been a less difficult and complicated assignment for him compared to challenging the likes of WBC Bantamweight champion, Shinsuke Yamanaka of Japan (16-0-2, 11 KOs); WBA Bantamweight Super champion, Anselmo “Chemito” Moreno of Panama (33-1-1, 12 KOs); WBA Bantamweight Regular champion, Koki Kameda of Japan; Interim WBA Bantamweight champion, Hugo “Cuatito” Ruiz of Mexico (30-1-0, 27 KOs); or WBO Bantamweight champion, Jorge “Travieso” Arce (60-6-2, 46 KOs) also of Mexico. In other words, there’s a big chance that he could become a world champion as early as this year if he had been in the Mexican, Leo Santa Cruz’s position who will be in the ring with the number one-ranked South African on June 3rd and had they taken advantage of his very lofty #3 ranking in the organization.

A lot of concerned supporters of Philippine boxing might start to wonder because of this. Is it because they are not rushing him too quickly to a world title shot and he still needs to learn a lot more? Might it also be the case that they believe he is not ready yet since his disappointing loss to Panama’s Rafael Concepcion for the Interim WBA Super Flyweight belt on July 26, 2008? Or, is it because the very influential Golden Boy Promotions, who promotes the Mexican, had just pulled some strings in IBF and got this fight first? Only the management teams behind ALA and Golden Boy Promotions can answer these questions.

Nevertheless, AJ Banal could’ve been on that card right now. He could’ve been the other challenger to the belt that was vacated by erstwhile champion and now WBC Super Bantamweight titlist, Abner Mares. They could have planned something with Golden Boy Promotions since they used to co-promote Banal back in the States when he fought there a couple of times in 2007. Better yet, they could have just bargained with them if they could permit their ward to get a shot at the title first; for old times’ sake. After all, he’s ranked higher and it makes more sense if he enjoys the opportunity first. But, to no avail. This could have been an interesting fight owing to the revenge factor they could hype it up with. It can be remembered that the South African was the same boxer who beat his stable mate and good friend, Michael Domingo when they fought in an IBF Bantamweight title eliminator back in October, 2010 in South Africa.

In spite of all that, ironically, he who is ranked higher than Santa Cruz is being set aside. Perhaps, ALA is just protecting him while he’s being prepared for his title shot or this might just be an uninspired fighter-pampering approach that’s being done to him.

The well-known ALA Stable of the equally renowned Cebu City should stop seasoning its boxers too much to a fault. If they are something special, they are special. If they are destined to become world champions, they would be one regardless how many fights they only have or how young and old they are. The same goes with Banal. If he’s meant to be a world champion, he’ll be a world champion. After all, he has had 29 professional fights now and is not too young anymore at 23 years old. Commonly, any boxer gets to fight for a world title when he already has around over 20 fights. It’s time he tests himself in another world title shot. If he loses, then he loses. He can just learn from the loss and be a better fighter moving forward. There will always be another world title crack afterwards. Won’t there?

If they will not try, nothing will happen. AJ “Bazooka” Banal will just end up being a long-time; once-defeated regional champion who never got to fight for a world title.

“You snooze, you lose.”

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