CEBU, Philippines – AJ “Bazooka” Banal turned his much-hyped showdown with Mexican Raul “El Bule” Hidalgo into a cruise, scoring a first round TKO to retain his WBO Asia-Pacific bantamweight crownin the main event of the Pinoy Pride XIII: Road to Glory at the full-packed Pacific grand ballroom of Waterfront-Cebu City Hotel and Casino Saturday.

Banal was just starting to heat up when he landed a solid left hook to the chin that wobbled Hidalgo late in the opening round. The visibly dazed and groggy Mexican kept on punching with his head down and his body trembling, prompting referee Joseph Danrex Tapdasan to step in and call off the bout to prevent the Mexican from further harm. The official time was 2:29 of the first round.

“The boxer (Hidalgo) was already trembling. He was not down, but you can see that his knees were not stable. He could no longer look straight and he doesn’t know who is in front of him,” said Tapdasan in defending his decision that drew mixed reactions from the fans.

“The entertainment side (of boxing) will have to take a backseat at that point. What is more important to me is to protect and safeguard the welfare of the boxer. I could have put him in a dangerous situation had I decided to let him continue,” added Tapdasan.

For his part, ALA Boxing Gym big boss Antonio Aldeguer felt the stoppage was “too premature” but said the referee can’t be blamed for doing his job.

“As a fan and promoter, it was too premature to stop the fight. I don’t know the rules, but he (Tapdasan) should have given him a mandatory eight count,” said Aldeguer. “But objectively as a referee, he did what was right.”

ALA Promotions president and CEO Michael Aldeguer echoed his father’s sentiment. “The referee should have prolonged it a bit, but we can’t blame him anyway for doing what he has to do,” said the younger Aldeguer.

“A win for me is a win, whether by early stoppage or decision. It doesn’t matter for me what others may think as long as I was able to make my fans happy,” said Banal, who improved his record to 27-1-1 including 20 KOs. Hidalgo slipped to 16-6 (12 KOs).

Asked if he’s ready for another crack at the world title, Banal quickly replied: “I am ready anytime. That’s what I’ve been waiting for. If opportunity comes, I’m willing to take the challenge.”

In the supporting main event, OPBF flyweight champion Rocky Fuentes pulled off a spectacular win along with ALA stablemates Albert Pagara and Arthur Villanueva.

Fuentes (33-6-2, 20 KOs) scored two knockdowns before finally stopping Franco Javier after 52 seconds of the sixth round. Pagara (11-0, 9 KOs) knocked out Thai Phupha Por Nobnom (10-8, 9 KOs) in 2:38 of the second round while Villanueva (18-0, 12 KOs) escaped with a unanimous decision victory over Rey Migreño (15-19-3, 13 KOs).

Cebu City – AJ ‘Bazooka’ Banal easily made the bantamweight limit of 118 lbs on his first attempt while Raul ‘El Bule’ Hidalgo of Mexico stepped on the scales at 119 lbs. It took him less than an hour to sweat off the excess pound for their WBO Asia-Pacific title fight.

Banal and Hidalgo will fight in the twelve round main event at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino Saturday night.

For the supporting main event, the ‘Road Warrior’ Rocky Fuentes stepped in at 113.5 lbs and Javier Franco of Mexico weighed 116.5 lbs and was asked to shed at least one pound. The contracted weight for their ten round non-title contest is 114 lbs. An hour later, Franco was not able to lose weight and will be wearing heavier ten ounce gloves on fight night.

Banal and Fuentes will have a lot to lose when they stake their lofty world rankings against the visiting fighters.

‘Prince’ Albert Pagara and Thailand’s Phupha Por Nobnum both weighed 116 lbs for their eight rounder.

Arthur ‘El Matador’ Villanueva stepped on the scales at 118 lbs while Rey Migreno weighed 119.5 lbs. Migreno had to shed the excess weight and stepped in at 118 in his second attempt for this eight round non-title affair.

In another eight rounder, Roma Rate weighed 108 lbs while opponent Jade Yagahon weighed 107 lbs.

Arjan Canillas (126 lbs) and Ranie Pamatian (126.5 lbs) will fight in a scheduled six rounder.

Pagara, Villanueva, Canillas and Rate are all unbeaten prospects.

Jun “Flash” Intor (127 lbs) will provide comic relief in his four rounder with Alejandro Marapao (126 lbs).

Crispin Parba (131 ¾ lbs) and Belmar Quinones (130 ½ lbs) will open the festivities with their four round affair.

The weigh-in held at the SM Mall Events Center was supervised by Glen Agena and Rolando Mendoza of GAB-Cebu.


As of Thursday noon, most of the expensive seats were sold out. This is good sign for ALA Promotions; most of the fans here are unaffected by the Genaro Garcia fiasco. Boxing has also steadily moved into the mainstream as the PINOY PRIDE series has consistently topped television ratings here in the country on Sunday mornings. This is a good sign for Philippine boxing as a whole.

During the presscon yesterday, ALA Promotions CEO and President Michael Aldeguer talked about staging the next Pinoy Pride in Metro Manila. Aldeguer hinted at the possibility of having Rey Bautista and Donnie Nietes in one fight card. The WBO lt.flyweight champion is due for a title defense.


By Rene Bonsubre, Jr.

Mandaue City – AJ ‘Bazooka’ Banal (26W-1L-1D, 17 KO’s) of Ermita, Cebu City will defend his WBO Asia-Pacific bantamweight title against Raul Hidalgo (15W-5L, 11 KO’s) of Mexico this March 24.

But the favourite question among the sportswriters was if Banal can fight for a world title this year.

“We are not treating this as a mere tune-up,” ALA Promotions CEO Michael Aldegeur said, “You can never underestimate a Mexican fighter. Yes, AJ is nearing a title fight and we’ll assess after this fight. We are also looking at the possibility of AJ fighting on the undercard of a Nonito Donaire fight in the U.S.”

Banal for his part said, “I am satisfied with the results of my last two fights. My confidence is back. I have prepared long and hard, I’ve been in the gym since December. I will not look past Hidalgo. He could be better than his record.”

Banal is the number ranked contender in the WBO. The reigning champion, Jorge Arce, of Mexico, has been reported to be planning another move up in weight.

By Rene Bonsubre, Jr.