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List of Articles by Jason Aniel



RISE, FALL, & UNCERTAINTY OF BERNABE CONCEPCION

By Jason Aniel
PhilBoxing.com
16 Mar 2012



San Mateo, CA—Last weekend on Showtime Television in the United States, Bernabe Concepcion suffered his second loss by stoppage against a rising featherweight, Mikey Garcia. Since 2009, Concepcion has gone 2-4 with two losses by knockout, one loss by disqualification, and one loss by decision to a fighter, who entered that fight with an 18-12-1 record. At only 24 years old, the once top prospect’s career is now in limbo.

Concepcion was a highly touted prospect out of the Philippines. So much so, that Manny Pacquiao and his MP Promotions outfit signed Concepcion to a contract in 2007, and brought him over the to United States to become a future world champion. In 2007, Concepcion, only 19 years old, made his U.S. debut on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s win over Jorge Solis at San Antonio, Texas. Concepcion faced a young and battle-tested Ben Flores, winning a tough but clear unanimous decision. Concepcion didn’t have the breakout debut in the United States as many predicted, but he went 10 hard rounds against a quality opponent on PPV.

The breakout performance didn’t take place untill his second fight in the United States. He was also featured in the undercard of a PPV fight, which was headlined by Erik Morales vs. David Diaz in 2007. Concepcion took on Gabriel Elizondo and battered him until he finally stopped Elizodo in 4th round. Top Rank, who co-promoted Concepcion, was thrilled with the performance and the ball began to roll on Concepcion as a future world champion and the next Filipino Boxing star.

Concepcion continued his upward trend by fighting four times in 2008, winning all four fights. His 2008 was highlighted by a 3rd round TKO on the undercard of the Antonio Margarito vs. Miguel Cotto PPV in July. During the weekend of Cotto-Margarito, there were a lot of discussions about a potential Concepcion vs. Juan Manuel Lopez fight in the Philippines or in Las Vegas. Many believed the two were destined to fight to prove supremacy in the 122lbs division.

In 2009, a decision was made to move Concepcion up to the featherweight division. Concepcion had fought mostly at 122lbs. The likely plan was to have Concepcion win the world title at 126lbs and defend that title against Juan Manuel Lopez, who was already established as a star fighter and a world champion. However, Concepcion looked sluggish and struggled a bit in six round unanimous decision over Yogli Herrera on the undercard of Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton in May of 2009. Herrera was brought in as a tune-up opponent, but Concepcion, who had above average power at 122lbs, couldn’t put away Herrera, despite Concepcion’s advantages in speed and strength.

Despite the outing, Concepcion did go on to face WBO Featherweight titlist, Steven Luevano. Luevano came into the bout, 36-1-1, and is a highly experienced boxer who has faced many top featherweights prior to facing Concepcion. However, because of the hype, the potential, and physical advantages, Concepcion was a slight betting favorite going into the bout. Hall of Fame trainer, Freddie Roach, had worked with Concepcion since his U.S. debut, and like many, expected Concepcion to win the bout. It was the biggest fight in Concepcion’s career. The bout was competitive as Luevano outboxed Concepcion, while Concepcion used his strength and landed power punches to the body that hurt Luevano. In end of the 7th, Concepcion started to take control of the fight, but he landed a punch on Luevano after the bell rang to end round 7. Luevano went down from the punch and the referee of fight immediately called off the fight and ruled that Concepcion was disqualified because of the late punch. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the ending of the bout as to whether Luevano could have continued or if the bout should have been ruled a no contest. Whatever the case, Concepcion was not leaving the arena with the WBO title and suffered a major setback in the biggest fight of his career.
Concepcion did bounce back with a unanimous decision win over Mario Santiago in 2010. The fight was closer than the official scorecards read. The bigger concern was that Concepcion did not show improvement in his overall game. Concepcion was not ready to face the top of the featherweight division. He showed vulnerability in both his fights against Santiago and Lueveno, who were two top featherweights. Looking back, Concepcion likely needed more seasoning instead of taking on Lopez in his next bout.

However, in 2010, Concepcion did get his fight against Juan Manuel Lopez, in Lopez’s home country of Puerto Rico. It was the main event on a Showtime televised card. Concepcion was a huge underdog going into the fight, and it was not viewed as the mega-fight hype it had back in 2008 when both were still Jr. Featherweights. Other a last second knockout in the first round, Concepcion was totally outmatched. Lopez dominated fight and dropped Concepcion three times and stopped Concepcion in just two rounds.

The loss to Lopez was the culmination of three fights in 12 months against top featherweight fighters. Concepcion clearly needed more work and more experience if he ever expected to return to the world championship level of fighting.

Concepcion was inactive for about 10 months and returned in May of 2011, the night before Pacquiao-Mosley. Concepcion lost a split decision Juan Carlos Martinez, who was only 18-12-1 at the time he fought Concepcion. Many who saw the fight live believed Concepcion did enough to win the fight. However, the fight was made for Concepcion to get some work in and get back to the win column. The fact that Concepcion struggled and even lost to a fighter he was supposed to win clearly brought red flags that more worked needed to be done with Concepcion.

Instead, Concepcion fought on an MP Promotions card and won via a split decision over Aaron Garcia. Like the Martinez fight, many that watched the fight live believed that the fight was close and that Concepcion did have his struggles. Again, the win was important since Concepcion struggled to win a split decision against an opponent he was “supposed” to dominate.
Concepcion’s past fights led up to his most recent performance against Mikey Garcia. Mikey Garcia, like Concepcion was back in 2007, is a highly touted prospect and now a top featherweight contender. It was a total role reversal for Concepcion because he was now brought in as the opponent to help pad Garcia’s record, who is projected to have a world title shot in the near future. The fight played out as most expected the fight to go. Concepcion was outmatched and outclassed by a superior boxer who posses true power at featherweight. Concepcion looked like the same fighter who struggled since 2009. The result was a TKO loss in the 7th round in a bout where Concepcion lost every round.

Looking at the future of Concepcion, a major reclamation project is needed should Concepcion chose to continue to fight. Concepcion is only 24 years old and despite the recent lack of success, there can be a future for Concepcion. As the business of boxing works, Concepcion’s loss against Garcia is not a career ender. In fact, Concepcion could get more fights after this loss, but he’ll be brought in as a name opponent rather than a legitimate challenger. Concepcion’s demeanor and look during the Garcia fight suggests that Concepcion is closer to retirement rather than a second coming. He got a second chance to prove his value as a boxer, but he looked worse than he looked even in getting knocked out in two rounds against Lopez. It’s unclear what the future holds for Concepcion.

What went wrong with Concepcion’s career? Looking back, there could be several reasons. One could be that Concepcion was never a natural featherweight and once he moved up to 126lbs, he was never going to be the same fighter. It could be that he never mentally recovered from the DQ loss to Lueveno. It could be that he was rushed into fighting Lopez and should have never accepted a fight with Garcia. Did the media and fans crown him as the “heir apparent” to the Pacquiao throne too soon and Concepcion could never live up to the hype? It’s likely a combination of all of those reasons and more.

Concepcion was the first prospect taken under the MP Promotions wing in the United States. His rise as a prospect and his free fall as a contender should be a lessen for future Filipino prospects who has dreams of being the next Pacquiao in the United States—it’s not going to be easy.

Contact this writer at sportnjordan@gmail.com or on twitter @sportnjordan


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