Later today we'll see WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali (15-0, 11) make his first defense, as he takes on Filipino challenger Arthur Villanueva (32-3-1, 18) in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
Yesterday, ahead of their bout, the two men took part in their weigh in for the contest, and both men made weight, looked good on the scales and seemed determined to pick up a win that could see them take a huge step towards divisional super fights.
On the scales both men were comfortably under-the-limit, coming in around 117.25lbs for the Bantamweight bout.
For Oubaali, a French born fright with a Moroccan heritage, the weight was the lightest he's been since he beat Julio Cesar Miranda way back in December 2016, in what was one of Oubaali's first wins off real note since turning professional in 2014. The Filipino on the other hand is as light as he's been in over 3 years, in fact he was still fighting at Super Flyweight when he came in lighter, with his November 2015 bout with Victor Mendez seeing him weigh 115lbs.
Related - Villanueva takes on Oubaali for WBC Bantamweight crown
(Image courtesy of Vesti.kz)
In one of the chief support bouts of "Pinoy Pride 45: Quest for Greatness" we saw former world title challenger Arthur Villanueva (32-3-1, 18) take on Carlo Demecillo (11-5-1, 5) in what looked, on paper, like a real mismatch. Paper however didn't tell us everything about this fight, and instead of being a mismatch in favour of Villanueva the bout was an ultra-competitive one, with neither man clearly bossing it.
From the off Demecillo was the aggressor, pressing the action and forcing the pace. Villanueva was happy to be the counter puncher, but he was struggling to land too regularly, and was being forced to do everything off the back foot against the younger man.
The first 3 rounds all saw Villanueva landing the better punches, but not landing enough of them. Demecillo on the other hand was out working his more well known opponent, working the body well and despite not looking that natural or fluid in the ring was showing a will to win.
In round 4 Villanueva finally began to turn on the gas, and come forward himself, having a much better round for himself. His intensity however failed to remain high the following round as he was caught by a bomb from Demecillo, and backed off again. Round 6 was another better one for Villanueva, but he was again unable to build on it with any real success the following round, as he again slowed his work and tried to fight as a counter puncher.
With neither man really dominating the bout it felt like the decision was going to potentially go down to the final round. Neither man had really done enough, on a consistent basis, to feel comfortable of getting the decision. That lead to a competitive and decent final round.
The fighters were both right to see it as being close, and the judges agreed, with two judges scoring the bout 95-95, whilst the third judge had it 96-94 to Demecillo. We felt Demecillo had just done enough, though we suspect he'll be the happier with his performance, even if he didn't get the win here. For Villanueva his career is now really hanging by a thread, and he's 2-2-1 in his last 5.
The next major card from ALA Promotions was announced earlier today, and is set to be a triple header, with the top 3 bouts all being affiliated with the WBO, albeit for a trio of their minor titles.
One of the title bouts will see the once touted Albert Pagara (30-1, 21) defending his WBO Inter-Continental Super Bantamweight title against Ghana's George Krampah (14-3, 12). This really should be a straight forward win for Pagara, given the that visitor has been relative inactive in recent years and was stopped in 2 of his last 3, including stoppage losses to Thabo Sonjica and current world champion Isaac Dogboe. Sadly though it doesn't seem like the step forward that the Filipino deserves given his talent and the promise he has.
A much better looking match up will see KJ Cataraja (8-0, 7) take on Victor Hugo Reyes (9-1-1, 7) in a mouth watering match up for the WBO Youth Super Flyweight title. The unbeaten Cataraja is very highly regarded in Asian boxing circles and he has been tipped for major success since turning professional. Despite being highly regarded he hasn't been matched particularly hard, with this being a notable step up in class. Reyes has been matched relatively easily but has been impressive on the Mexican domestic scene, with a good win last time out against Julio Castillo. This really could be the stand out show on the card.
The third title bout will see the hard hitting Jeo Santisima (16-2, 14) take on Mexican Victor Uriel Lopez (13-6-1, 6) in a bout for the WBO Oriental Super Bantamweight title. The 22 year old Santisima has been one of the most explosive Filipino prospects in recent years and will be favoured here, especially given he is riding a 14 fight winning run. The visitor however is no push over and in 2016 he scored a major upset over Ryo Matsumoto.
Others on the card include Jonas Sultan (14-4, 9) and Ardin Diale (34-12-4, 16), who will be facing against each other, and Arthur Villanueva (32-3, 18), though his opponent hasn't yet been announced.
ALA Boxing Gym, the premier promotional outfit in the Philippines, have revealed that their next card in the "Pinoy Pride" line of shows, "Pinoy Pride 44", will take place on June 9th in Maasin City, and although it's not set to feature any world class bouts it does look like a stacked card with name value running through it, and should be a card that generates a fair bit of attention from those involved in it.
The main event is set to feature the popular Albert Pagara (29-1, 20) taking on Ghana's Laryea Gabriel Odoi (20-3-2, 14), who is best known for losing in a Commonwealth title fight to Martin Ward in 2013. Pagara, originally from Maasin City, will be the overwhelming favourite in the eyes of the fans, but Odoi has never been stopped, and has lost only once in his last 23 fights, having rebuilt following a 0-2 start to his professional career. Athlough Odoi is a tough, then again aren't all fighters teak tough, he has only fought once in the last year, and has only fought 4 times in the last 4 years. For Pagara this is a chance to record his 4th straight win following his 2016 loss to Cesar Juarez
Albert will be joined by older brother Jason Pagara (40-3-1, 25), who takes on Indonesian Geisler AP (12-10-1, 9). It's fair to say that 2017 was a year to forget for the once touted Pagara, who went 0-1-1 for the year. In December he suffered a TKO loss to Hiroki Okada and in both of his 2017 bouts he looked like a fighter who really lacked the commitment and fitness to be fighting. Even an off the boil Pagara should have far too much for the visiting fighter here, with the Indonesian fighter having been stopped in every one of his bouts outside of Indonesia.
Former world title challenger Arthur Villanueva (31-3, 17) will be returning to the ring for the first time since his stoppage loss to Luis Nery as he takes on domestic journeyman Renren Tesorio (16-12-3, 4), in what should be an easy comeback fight for the 29 year old.
In another of the feature bouts the exciting Jeo Santisima (15-2, 13) will battle against Thai visitor Yodsingdaeng Jor Chaijinda (16-5, 10) in a bout for the WBO Oriental Super Bantamweight title. The Thai visitor is 0-5 outside of Thailand is is likely to extend that losing run here against the hard hitting Santisima, who has looked like a real prospect in recent bouts, and will be looking to move into the WBO rankings with another win here. The Thai was riding a 10 fight winning run until recently, with that run ending this past February when he was out pointed by Juan Miguel Elorde, and we suspect he'll now suffer a second successive loss.
Others pencilled in for this card including former world title challenger Melvin Jerusalem (12-2, 7), unbeaten puncher Jeno Macapobre (3-0, 2) and Japanese fighter Go Hosaka (0-0)
Back in August the Bantamweight division was shaken up with we saw long reigning WBC Bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-1-2, 19) [山中慎介] being stopped in 4 rounds by 22 year old Mexican Luis Nery (24-0, 18).
Sadly for the sport Nery's win was tainted following a drug's test which revealed a banned substance in his body. Originally the WBC had stated they would make a decision on the matter after going through their Clean Boxing Programme protocol, though now, almost 2 months later, we're still awaiting a decision from the organisation.
Yesterday Nery's promoter Zanfer announced that their man would return to the ring on November 4th, however he wouldn't be defending his title, instead he would be fighting in a non-title bout with Filipino Arthur Villanueva (31-2, 17).
At the press conference to announce the bout there was no mention of the elephant in the room. Instead Nery stated that he was happy to be fighting in Tiajuana as a world champion and hoped to have an exciting fight.
With the WBC still delaying a decision some have looked at this bout as a chance for the WBC to essentially turn a blind eye to the drug issue surrounding Nery's win over Yamanaka. Given the speed in which they recently dealt with a positive drug test from Cuban Luis Ortiz, refusing to sanction a bout between him and Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder as a result, it does seem like the WBC are being inconsistent and are leaving themselves very open to criticism and favourtism.
For Villanueva the bout is a huge one and could set up a third crack at a world title, though sadly for him he's the "other man" in what is likely to be a bout criticised for the lack of proper punishment for a failed drugs test.
(Image courtesy of Zanfer Promotions)
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