Philippines, 29 May 2024
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Two up, one down

Astrolabio (L) and Suarez.

Three Filipino fighters saw action overseas last weekend with Vincent Astrolabio and Charly Suarez picking up wins and Garen Diagan surrendering at the end of the sixth round in failing to dethrone WBO minimumweight champion Oscar Collazo in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Astrolabio was behind on two of the three judges scorecards when he floored Nawaphon Kaikanha with an overhand right in the 11th round of a WBC bantamweight title eliminator in Bangkok. The Thai beat the 10-count and referee Yuji Fukuchi allowed the action to continue but stepped in a few seconds later as Astrolabio blasted away to leave his opponent helpless. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, undefeated Suarez pounded out a unanimous 10-round verdict over rugged Dominican Republic warrior Yohan Vasquez to keep his hopes alive for a world title shot at 35.

Diagan’s defeat extended the losing streak of Filipino fighters in world title fights, including interim, to seven. Collazo, who wrested the 105-pound crown from another Filipino Melvin Jerusalem, had no difficulty in disposing of Diagan. There were no knockdowns but it was pointless to continue as Collazo was in control of the battle from the onset. Diagan never came close to launching a convincing assault and was badly battered. He was accompanied to Puerto Rico by manager Josh Navarro and trainer Rod Sarguilla.

Astrolabio’s victory was nothing short of sensational. Judges Malcolm Bulner of Australia and Hisatoshi Miyasaki of Japan had it 96-94 for Nawaphon entering the 11th and only judge Joseph Gwilt of the UK saw it for the Filipino, 96-94. Gwilt lives in Thailand but it didn’t cloud his objectivity. The three judges awarded the first three rounds to Astrolabio. Bulner and Miyasaki scored six of the next seven for Nawaphon. Because it was a close contest entering the last two frames, Astrolabio knew the only way he could pull off a win was to knock out the hometowner.

“Sobrang dikit ang score so pinagsikapan ko na ma-knock out ko siya,” said Astrolabio. His coach Nonoy Neri said it was do-or-die. “Bago nagsimula ang 11th round, sabi ko kay Vincent timing mo na lang at ‘di naman malakas yung kalaban,” said Neri. “Maraming suntok pero ‘di masakit. Hihina na rin si Nawaphon at tamaan niya ng overhand right na palagi namin ginagawa sa training. Sabi ko, jab, jab lang kasi ‘yan ang nag-kokontrol ng fight. Lumabas yung suntok sa round 11.”

The rousing win sends Astrolabio to a showdown with newly-crowned WBC bantamweight champion Alejandro Santiago of Mexico late this year or early the next. Astrolabio lost in a bid for the vacant WBO bantamweight throne in Stockton last May, bowing to Australian Jason Moloney on a majority 12-round decision. He got a break when MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons negotiated the eliminator against Nawaphon, seizing the opportunity to gain a second chance at a world title.

Suarez recently signed a three-fight contract with Top Rank and has two more to go after trouncing Vasquez. The 2016 Olympian is ranked No. 1 by IBO which isn’t widely recognized as a major governing body unlike the WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF. He’s in line to challenge IBO superfeatherweight champion Anthony Cacace of Northern Ireland. Suarez’ record is 16-0 with nine KOs. Vasquez, who entered the ring with 20 KOs in 25 wins, stood no chance against the crafty Suarez. Judge Patricia Morse Jarman had it 97-93 while judges Steve Morrow and David Sutherland scored it both 98-92.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.

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