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IT'S ALL ABOUT HEART


PhilBoxing.com




No doubt AJ 'Bazooka' Banal is one of the most talented fighters to ever grace the Philippine boxing scene. He cruised to victory against most of his opponents. Yet when he fought against championship caliber rivals, he failed. Twice he attempted and twice he failed.

In his fight against Rafael Concepcion of Panama for the WBA Interim Flyweight Title on July 26, 2008, Banal was expected to take a world title in his first attempt. And in the first half of that fight, with Concepcion already nursing a broken nose from the 4th round onwards, it appeared that Banal was on the way of capturing his first world title.

But the 2nd half of the fight told a different story. When the Panamanian slugger began to hurt him, Banal faded and finally succumbed to the onslaught and went to kiss the canvas in the 10th round.

During last Saturday's fight against WBO #2 contender Pungluang Sor Singyu of Thailand at the newly minted Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Banal, who was fighting Pungluang for the vacant WBO bantamweight title, also dominated the first half of the fight. Yet when Pungluang began to turn the tide around and hurt Banal with his crisp overhand counters, Banal faded and finally went down in the 9th round, who appeared badly hurt from a Punluang right straight.

In the Concepcion fight, Banal's demise was blamed on several factors, including lack of stamina, too young and inexperienced, hometown pressure, etc. However, after Saturday's fight against Pungluang, it is clear right now that when Banal gets hurt, when he is brought into deeper and uncharted waters by his opponent, he just could not withstand the pressure.

It all boils down to heart or lack of it. And in many cases, this is the main difference between a great fighter and an ordinary one.

We don't have to go very far to find the perfect example. When the then unknown Manny Pacquiao fought Thailand's Chachai Sasakul for the WBC flyweight title at the opponent's territory on Dec. 12, 1998, Sasakul was schooling Pacquiao the whole fight but Pacquiao dug deep and eventually knocked out Sasakul in the 8th round. Pacquiao was bleeding badly due to the cut he sustained from a head butt against Erik Morales during their first fight. Outboxed and his vision impaired, Pacquiao fought on until the final bell where it seemed only his big fighting heart carried him through. Although he lost the fight, Pacquiao earned two more fights against Morales for a trilogy that ranked as one of the great trilogies in boxing.

Just two Saturday's ago, Brandon Rios was outscored by Mike Alvardo towards the middle rounds in a barnburner of a fight and Rios appeared headed to his first defeat. But it was Rios' warrior heart that carried him through that finally overpowered Alvarado in the 7th round.


Banal's entrance during his fight with Pungluang last Saturday.


Banal (L) comforted by Donaire after Banal was TKO'd by Pungluang.

In contrast, it was Pungluang Sor Singyu who showed who has the heart during last Saturday's fight. Banal tagged the Thai warrior with solid lefts and rights in the 6th round that staggered Sor Singyu but instead of sulking, Sor Singyu pumped his chest and moved forward towards the Ermita fighter, who at this time appeared to have lost steam and a bit confused.

At 23 years old, Banal is still young and may yet still become a world champion. But the psychological barrier from his two high profile losses may become too difficult for this young fighter to surmount.

His skills would always be there but unfortunately, skills are not always enough for the most demanding sport in the planet and in the highest levels of competition ? what is also needed is heart.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Dong Secuya.


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