Filipino boxer AJ Banal (L) and Thailand’s Pungluang Sor Singyu pose for a photograph at a press conference ahead of their WBO Bantamweight title fight at the SM Mall of Asia in Manila. Photograph: James Goyder/Phnom Penh Post
Saturday night sees one of the region’s biggest nights of boxing in recent years as AJ Banal and Pungluang Sor Singyu contest the vacant WBO Bantamweight title at the SM Mall of Asia in Manila.
Putting together this fight was an achievement in itself and took a lot of negotiation and, reportedly, a significant sum of money for ALA Promotions of the Philippines to persuade legendary Thai promoter One Songchai that this card should be held in Manila rather than Bangkok.
While Banal will have the Filipino crowd firmly on his side, Pungluang need have no fear of bias from the officials with the judges and referee imported by the WBO from overseas in order to ensure impartiality.
Boxers from Thailand tend to fare better fighting on home territory than they do on foreign soil.
Pungluang has an outstanding record of 41-1 but the sole loss of his career came in his only previous fight outside of his homeland, when he dropped a dubious split decision to Stephane Jamoye in 2009 in Belgium.
Banal, who trains out of the renowned ALA Boxing Gym in Cebu City, is a southpaw who is 28-1-1. He has fought for a world title once before but suffered his only professional loss when he was knocked out by Rafael Concepcion in the 10th round of a fight he appeared to be winning.
That was in 2008 and Banal has had to wait four long years to get another shot at a belt.
He will have to have his wits about him the whole time against Pungluang because the Thai fighter has a reputation for being a big hitter with 27 career knockouts.
Banal has 20 KOs of his own but it is Pungluang who is regarded as the power puncher in this contest.
The Thai has been training at a naval base in Sattahip, Chonburi province, along with some members of the Thai Olympic team, and has also flown in some Filipino southpaws for sparring who can mimic his opponent’s style.
While the world title fight will be the main event at Pinoy Pride 17, there is also plenty of talent on the undercard including former world title contender Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista.
The 26-year-old was knocked out by Daniel Ponce De Leon in the first round of their fight for the WBO bantamweight strap in 2007, but has won 10 fights out of 11 since then.
He will be going up against Mexican Daniel Ruiz and “Boom Boom”, whose all action style makes him a favourite with the Filipino fans, will be looking to secure the 26th stoppage win of his career and register his seventh straight victory.
Bautista trains alongside Banal at the ALA Boxing Gym and another fighter from that stable, Jason Pagara, takes on the unbeaten Miguel Antoine from Barbados in a light welterweight clash.
For more information about Pinoy Pride 17, visit ALA boxing website.