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ALA’s new breed

By Joaquin Henson
Thu, 16 Jan 2020

The ALA Gym in Cebu.

It was in 1985 when Antonio Lopez Aldeguer, known as ALA, established a boxing stable in Cebu and gave an opportunity for Filipinos to make a living out of the sport. Through the years, ALA Boxing produced several fighters who became world champions. The list includes Gerry Penalosa, Malcolm Tunacao, Noel Tunacao, Rodel Mayol, Milan Melindo and Donnie Nietes. Other standouts who wore the ALA colors were A. J. Banal, Rey (Boom Boom) Bautista, Edito (ALA) Villamor, Z Gorres and Michael Domingo.

Some former ALA fighters stayed in the sport as trainers like Domingo, Villamor and Mayol. Penalosa started his career with ALA then made his mark as a two-time world champion under the guidance of the late Rudy Salud. Aldeguer was never in the fight game for the money. He loved the sport and wanted to give Filipino fighters the chance to reach stardom and gain honor for the country. In 2006, his son Michael took over as head of ALA Boxing and kept alive his father’s legacy.

Today, Aldeguer is completely retired from boxing. “Would you believe that I haven’t visited our boxing gym for almost three years?” he said. “It’s Michael who’s running the boxers and the gym.” But Aldeguer continues to watch over the ALA boxers even from a distance. His heart will always be for the fighters and he remains their inspiration. For Michael, his father is his guiding light.

As a new decade begins, Michael is ready to launch an offensive with a new breed of warriors. Of course, the veterans are still leading the charge. Two ALA fighters are ranked No. 1 in their divisions and next in line as mandatory challengers. One is WBO No. 1 superbantamweight Albert Pagara and the other is WBC No. 1 minimumweight Melvin Jerusalem. Aside from his WBC rating, Jerusalem is ranked No. 5 by the IBF, No. 6 by the WBO and No. 3 by the IBO. Four-time world champion Donnie Nietes, 37, sat out last year but is ready to get back in the ring to pursue another crown. Nietes is ranked No. 6 by the WBC in the superflyweight class. His inactivity is the reason why he’s not ranked by the other governing bodies.

Asked to name ALA Boxing’s promising fighters, Michael singled out five prospects----superflyweight K. J. Cataraja of Cebu, superbantamweight Jeo Santisima of Masbate, flyweight Regie Suganob of Bohol, lightflyweight Christian Bacolod of Manila (now based in Cebu) and lightweight Go Hosaka of San Fernando, La Union.

Cataraja, 24, has an 11-0 record, with 9 KOs, including four in the first round. Of his victims, only five were Filipinos so he’s feasted on imports. He has never fought outside the country. Two Mexicans, Victor Reyes and Pedro Rodriguez, tried their luck against Cataraja and were bundled out. A University of Cebu criminology graduate, Cataraja has to be a little more active and battle a higher class of opposition to break into the world rankings. This year may mark his debut in a foreign ring.

Santisima, 23, is ranked No. 5 by the WBO in the superbantamweight division. The 5-6 power puncher has compiled a 19-2 record, with 16 KOs, including six in the first round. He turned pro in 2003 and after a 2-2 start, has racked up 17 straight wins. In 2016, Santisima showed his toughness by surviving a knockdown in the second round to stop Marco Demecillo in the sixth in Cebu City. In 2018, he outpointed Mexico’s Uriel Lopez to win the WBO Oriental superbantamweight crown. Last month, Santisima retired Rene Dacquel after three rounds in Bogo City.

Suganob, 22, turned pro in 2018 and has registered a 4-0 record, with 1 KO. He fought thrice last year, posting three wins on points. Suganob stopped Mark Torella in the second round in his pro debut in Cebu City in November 2018.

Bacolod, 25, zoomed to a perfect 12-0 record with 9 KOs then went to Osaka to engage undefeated Thanongsak Simsri last month. He lost by an eight-round unanimous decision but the judges’ scorecards were close, 77-76, 77-76, 77-75. Although a Thai, Thanongsak is like a hometown favorite in Osaka where he has fought thrice at the Edion Arena. Michael said Bacolod will be back stronger and wiser. It was Bacolod’s first fight overseas.

Go, 23, is a 5-5 southpaw who is a Filipino-Japanese born in Japan. His record is 4-0, with 3 KOs. Go made his pro debut in Maasin City in 2018, halting Holly Quinones at 2:42 of the first round. In its 35th year, ALA Boxing is set to add more milestones to a checkered history.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.

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