Philippines, 29 May 2024
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Fighting through pain

Suarez (L) clips Vazquez with a left.

Two undefeated Pinoy fighters recently displayed exceptional courage under fire in critical bouts far away from each other and their common desire to win for the country against all odds was resplendent. In Oklahoma, superfeatherweight Charly Suarez cracked his right hand in the first round and the freak accident was a handicap the rest of the way but sucked it up to beat Dominican Republic KO artist Yohan Vasquez by a unanimous decision in a tenner. In Tokyo, flyweight Dave Apolinario was in total control when his left elbow struck Mexican Brian Mosinos’ head in the third round, causing a huge swelling but endured the pain to pound out a unanimous eight-round verdict.

Both Suarez and Apolinario are close to locking up world title shots so a loss would seriously crimp their chances to seal a deal. Suarez, 35, is ranked No. 1 by IBO, No. 7 by IBF, No. 10 by WBO and No. 15 by WBC. Apolinario, 24, is ranked No. 2 by WBA, No. 5 by IBF and No. 10 by WBO. Suarez’ record is 16-0 with nine KOs while Apolinario’s mark is 19-0 with 13 KOs. Apolinario is actually the IBO flyweight titlist but he’s giving it up for a crack at the WBA throne where Ukraine’s Artem Dalakian now sits. Dalakian, 36, claimed the vacant WBA 112-pound crown on a decision over Brian Viloria in 2018 and has since made six defenses. His record is 22-0 with 15 KOs. Apolinario, who’s 12 years younger than Dalakian, said he’s ready to go for broke against the Ukrainian.

Apolinario wins in Tokyo.

In Tokyo, Apolinario said losing wasn’t an option. He just signed a co-promotional contract with two-time former world minimumweight champion Hideyuki Ohashi who’s based in Yokohama. So Apolinario couldn’t disappoint Ohashi. Against Mosinos, Apolinario seized the initiative from the onset and scored a knockdown in the second frame. Then, in the third, he hurt his left elbow which struck Mosinos' skull. A southpaw, Apolinario relies on his left hand to inflict damage but with the swelling in his elbow, lost his sting. “’Di ako nagpahalata kay Mosinos kasi kung alam niya mayroon akong iniinda, tatarget niya yung braso ko,” said Apolinario. “Tiyaga lang, masakit at namaga pero tiniis ko hanggang dulo.” Apolinario continued to press his attack despite the injury and breezed to a convincing victory on points. Judges Yuji Fukuchi and Katsuhiko Nakamura scored it 78-73 and judge Takeru Okaniwa, 79-72, all for the Sarangani fighter known as Dobermann. Aside from Ohashi, Apolinario is backed by manager Mike Pelayo and co-promoter JC Manangquil so he’s in good hands. A shot at Dalakian’s belt is just around the corner.

Suarez said he struck Vasquez’ cheekbone with a right straight in the opening round and it caused severe swelling. Like Apolinario, Suarez didn’t reveal the injury to cornerman Delfin Boholst. “Ayaw ko siyang mag-alala,” said Suarez. “Malakas si Vasquez pero ‘di solid mga tama niya at pa-ilan ilan lang. Puntos ang hinabol ko at nakuha natin sa tulong ng Diyos.” After the fight, it took a strong tug to pull Suarez’ right glove out because of the swelling. The judges’ scorecards weren’t close. Patricia Morse Jarman had it 97-93 while Steve Morrow and David Sutherland, 98-92. Suarez has two fights left in his Top Rank contract which Narvacan Mayor and former Ilocos Sur Governor Luis (Chavit) Singson arranged with Bob Arum. He’s first in line to challenge Belfast’s IBO superfeatherweight ruler Anthony Cacace but his ultimate goal is to battle IBF champion Joe Cordina. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Cordina eliminated Suarez via a disputed split decision and he’s looking for payback.

Suarez said he bumped into Arum at the end of the fight. “Tinawag niya ako at nag-pa-picture kami,” he said. “Sabi ni Mr. Arum, kumusta kay Manong Chavit at padala ko raw picture namin. Laking tulong ni Manong sa akin.” Singson’s son Christian accompanied Suarez and Boholst on the US trip.

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

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