CEBU CITY, Philippines – “What is a star?” This was the question posed by ALA Promotions’ president Michael Aldegeur following Jason Pagara’s unanimous-decision win over Aaron Herrera at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City. Pagara, though battered facially following a tough, 12-round tussle with the game Mexican, won by the scores of 119-108, 116-111 and 115-112.
Though explosive in spots, the 24-year-old Pagara (31-2, 19 knockouts) from Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, struggled during the middle rounds as Herrera (25-2, 17 KOs) battled back with left hooks and right hands of his own. Pagara showed heart in surviving those moments; power in scoring a knockdown in round two with a short uppercut; and improvement in stamina.
The crowd was packed and, maybe most importantly, lively. Pagara’s performance elicited the same kind of responses that were previously only reserved for Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista and AJ Banal, two of ALA Promotions’ most popular fighters.
Pagara, like Bautista and Banal before him, possesses a particular blend of determination and vulnerability that connects with the local fans. It’s something that his promoters accept and embrace.
“Now the question is, is Pagara up there?” asked Aldegeur. “On the boxing side, no. Right now, we want to make this first step. He’s not the best but he’s in that step.”
In addition to the fans who bought tickets (which in the Philippines is an anomaly as few promoters draw paid crowds), representatives from Philippine-based Asia Brewery, plus the CFO of the ABS-CBN network, which will televise the card domestically on a delayed basis, were in attendance. Pagara attracts sponsors, more so than some of his other more accomplished counterparts, which was another characteristic Bautista possessed.
“There’s always this question of, what is a star?” asked Aldegeur. “Some people say ‘Boom Boom’ was a star, but he was never a world champion. He draws a crowd, everybody knows him next to Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, Boom Boom’s name comes up. Here’s Donnie Nietes, seven years as a world champion, he’s not recognized as much as ‘Boom Boom.’ Pagara has it, but to say to be a world champion, we don’t know, it’s a tough decision.”
Aldegeur says that discussions to match Pagara with Oxnard, Calif.-based trainer Robert Garcia have been on-and-off. Moving Pagara to America, where there are far more junior welterweight boxers like him to spar with, would give him the kind of competition that could enable him to grow.
“Who is a quality 140 pounder in the Philippines?” asked Aldegeur. “It’s only him. He can’t just be knocking out sparring partners all the time.”
Servania blows out Junior, sets up Macau date
Genesis Servania had lots to lose heading into his co-featured bout with Indonesia’s Isack Junior. The Bacolod City, Philippines native is scheduled to face Konosuke Tomiyama on July 27 in Macau on a card promoted by Top Rank, and a weak performance, cut or loss could’ve cost him that opportunity.
Yet, after 30 seconds into the bout, it was clear that Junior was not the kind of opponent who could upset Servania’s grand plans. Junior came out in a faux-Mayweather shoulder roll stance, but lacked the reflexes or the physical strength to match Servania’s explosive attacks.
Servania (20-0, 8 KOs) worked the body and head effectively, particular with the overhand right, and darted in and out of range before Junior (20-4-2, 8 KOs) could mount an effective attack. As Servania dug in with rights and lefts to the body in the third round, Junior collapsed and took the ten count on his knee. The time of stoppage was 2:15.
Servania said he will travel to his hometown on Sunday morning to oversea his father’s operation to remove gall stones, a surgery paid for directly with this payday. He will return on Tuesday to begin training for the Macau fight.
Genesis’ younger brother Rolando Servania (3-0, 1 KO) was also in action, emerging from a competitive four-round bout with a unanimous decision over Andrew Palas (1-1). Scores for the flyweight bout were 39-37 for Servania on all three cards.
Meanwhile, veteran domestic contender Jimrex Jaca was fighting to remain viable in his thirteenth year as a professional. Jaca, whom American audiences might remember for his spirited, ninth-round TKO loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in 2006, was aiming for his tenth straight win since returning to the ring in 2010 following a year-long layoff precipitated by three consecutive losses in 2008.
Facing Mexico’s Jose Emilio Perea, events began as poorly for Jaca as they could as a head butt opened up a nasty gash underneath Jaca’s right eye in round two. Realizing that the fight and his career were in jeopardy, Jaca stepped on the gas and began to push Perea back with left crosses of his own. By the fifth, Jaca was in total command as the 30-year-old Perea began to fade against Jaca’s straight lefts.
As Jaca took command, the resilient Perea stormed right back in round seven, hurting Jaca with a left hook to the body. Head clashes began to further assail Jaca’s compromised eye, and by the ninth he was essentially a one-eyed fighter. Later in the round, Jaca lost a point for using his head, though replays later showed that he was pushing Perea off after Perea initiated a headbutt on Jaca’s right eye.
Still, Jaca refused to relent, taking back the play with left crosses and uppercuts in rounds ten and eleven. Perea would have the last statement however, when he scored the bout’s only knockdown on a left cross as the ten second clapper sounded to end the fight.
Jaca rose up to hear three scorecards in his favor; 115-112 on two cards, and 116-110 on a third. With the win, Jaca raises his ledger to 38-6-3 (21 KOs), and is tentatively scheduled to return to action in August in Dubai on a card headlined by WBO light flyweight titleholder Donnie Nietes. Jose Perea drops to 22-3 (14 KOs), with all three defeats coming in his last four fights.
Of particular interest to the ALA Promotions brass was the professional debut of two-time Philippine national amateur champion Jessel Magsayo, a native of Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines. Though just 17 years old, Magsayo had amassed over 200 fights of amateur experience since picking up the sport at age eight.
The featherweight Magsayo looked like a poised veteran in there against Melton Sandal, who was also making his debut. Magsayo dropped Sandal shortly into the opening stanza with a left hook, after which Magsayo tried to help him up. Sandal soon found himself back on the floor when a right uppercut from Magsayo was proceeded by a right cross that knocked Sandal down for the count. Afterwards, a jubilant Magsayo performed a back flip in the ring ala Prince Naseem Hamed.
Also, Ralph Lulu (8-0-2, 3 KOs) of Sultan Kudarat, Philippines won an eight-round unanimous decision over Junny Salogaol (4-3-4, 4KO) by scores of 80-72 on two of the cards, and 79-73 on the third. Lulu, 22, began to dominate the fight in the final two rounds as Salogaol slowed down precipitously after a competitive start.
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to The Ring magazine and GMA News. He can be reached at [email protected]. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.