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Filipino boxer Aston Palicte gets it right in U.S. debut

Junior bantamweight contender Aston Palicte and company. Photoby Shen Arevalo Photography
Fighters Network

When the final bell rang after the 10th round, Aston Palicte didn’t wait for the scorecards to be read before climbing the ropes and celebrating with the Las Vegas crowd. Palicte knew he had gotten the better of his foe, previously unbeaten junior bantamweight Oscar Cantu Saturday at the Downtown Las Vegas Event Center.

Aside from one hitch – a dissenting judge who scored the fight for Cantu – the Filipino Palicte had the United States debut he had hoped for and a new start to his career. The other two judges scored the fight for Palicte, 98-92 and 96-94.

Palicte (22-2, 18 knockouts), of Bago City, Philippines, had used his lanky, long-armed power punches to push the Kingsville, Texas native Cantu (14-1, 1 KO) back, starting quickly and making it through a mid-round surge from his foe to close the fight the stronger of the two.

It was Palicte’s first fight with new trainer Rodel Mayol, a former WBC junior flyweight champion, also from the Philippines, who has settled in Los Angeles since retiring in 2012, and his first time fighting under the banner of Roy Jones Jr. Boxing Promotions, an upstart company helmed by the former four-division world champion.

Junior bantamweight contender Aston Palicte (right) tags Oscar Cantu with a right hand to the head in Las Vegas, Nevada on Dec. 17, 2016. Photo credit: Shen Arevalo Photography

Jones himself is no stranger to Philippine boxing, having brought Gerry Penalosa and Vernie Torres to train with him and fight on his undercards in his heyday.

“I was extremely happy with Aston’s performance on Saturday night,” says Keith Veltre, CEO of Roy Jones Jr. Boxing Promotions, who wants to see Palicte back in action in March. “Oscar Cantu came to fight and Aston stepped up to the challenge. This win moves Aston closer to a world title shot in 2017.”

“(Matchmaker) Guy Taylor and I will do our job and work with the WBO and WBC to make this happen.”

Palicte, 25, is the latest in a long line of Filipino boxers dating back a century to come to the U.S. seeking glory. A former amateur standout who represented the Philippines at the 2008 AIBA Youth World Championships in Mexico, he comes from a boxing family, with his older brother Vincent Palicte previously serving on the national team and his younger brother James currently a lightweight on the team.

His first defeat, a fourth-round stoppage to Romnick Magos in 2012, came after Palicte gassed out, following a fast start. Palicte may have deserved the win in a split-decision loss to Junior Granados in Mexico last March, despite not being at his sharpest.

The Granados fight was sandwiched by wins over his most-experienced foe, a decision and a seventh round knockout of well-traveled but smaller ex-world title challenger Vergilio Silvano in the Philippines.

Palicte’s manager Jason Soong says the plan is to have Palicte stay in the U.S. for six-to-eight weeks before his next fight, training at the Wild Card Boxing Club with Mayol and honing their chemistry.

“More that anything he’s like a mentor…(Palicte) really looks up to him,” Soong says of Mayol, a fixture in the Manny Pacquiao camp. “And honestly this wouldn’t have worked in our favor if it weren’t for him.”

Palicte came into the bout rated No. 11 by the IBF (whose belt at 115 pounds is held by his former stablemate Jerwin Ancajas) and No. 15 by the WBO (whose strap is held by Japan’s Naoyi Inoue). Veltre expects the latest win to elevate Palicte to a Top 10 ranking with the WBC and a Top 5 ranking with the WBO.

Palicte is set to get married next month and then all indications are that he’ll be back in training for an eventful 2017.

Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to THE RING magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @RyanSongalia.

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