Michael Aldeguer: ‘AJ Banal in toughest fight’

Gary Valenciano and Martin Nievera are performing tomorrow at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino. Yes, we are proud that they’re Pinoy, but, no, they’re not in “Pinoy Pride.” That’s this Saturday. And, instead of a duet, it’s a duel. It’s the duel between AJ Banal and Luis Perez. It’s the concert of boxers: there’s U.S.-based welterweight Mark Melligen, the undefeated Jason Pagara, Larry “Bon Jovi” Canillas, and the popular Jun Intor.

First, let’s talk about Melligen. “Mark has always been talented, even in his amateur days as a member of the RP team when he won silver in the SEA Games,” said ALA Promotions president Michael Aldeguer. “In 2007, he came to ALA and was part of the program. We felt that he had to be in the U.S. to maximize his potential because of his weight division.

Thanks to the help of Las Vegas-based Tony Martin, Melligen trained at Mayweather’s gym. “He had the chance to spar with Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Marcus Maidana and Devon Alexander,” said Aldeguer. “Mark learned a lot from Floyd who has become his good friend. When he came back, his game was in a different level. Learning from one of the best is a whole new experience for Mark; he patterns his counter-punching style and calculated approach to Mayweather’s.”

Bladimir Hernandez. That’s Melligen’s opponent. Who is this Mexican nicknamed “The Blade?” “He’s a knockout artist with a record of 18 wins and 16 KOs with 14 of his opponents not going past the third round. He also has six first-round KOs,” said Mr. Aldeguer. “When we informed the Top Rank executives about Bladimir Hernandez as Mark’s opponent on Oct. 30, they showed concern and sent us as a video. If you look at Hernandez’s credentials, he’s dangerous–and Mark knows that.”

The main bout, of course, stars Alex John Banal. “AJ has worked so hard on his conditioning which will play a major role in his quest to be a world champion,” said Aldeguer. “We enhanced his training by hiring a conditioning coach in Pio Solon, who specializes on scientific conditioning. Even though ALA had a conditioning program, we felt that it was best to inject the new scientific method to improve on stamina. However, no matter what you do in training, it’s the athlete’s state of mind and mental toughness that are most important. We believe that it comes with age and experience.

Now 21 years old, Banal has matured. “He has learned much from that devastating loss two years ago,” said Aldeguer. “I always believe that everything happens for a reason. To be great, you need to go through adversities. Even Manny Pacquiao went through two knockout losses. I believe Banal is ready. That’s why we’ve risked getting two-time world champion Luiz Perez, who has a menacing record of 27 wins, 17 KOs with only four losses (and those were mostly against world champs such as Joseph Agbeko, the fighter who gave Vic Darchinyan his second loss, and Ricardo Cordoba).”

This Banal-Perez clash will be the Bukidnon-native’s most formidable clash since Concepcion. Originally scheduled in Dubai, Banal wanted Cebuanos to see him redeem himself. “AJ once told me, ‘The loss (to Concepcion) is devastating because I’ve let my supporters down.’” said Aldeguer. “Now he wants to make up for it. Beating Perez is his ticket to stardom and a chance to fight for a world title. AJ is the highest-ranking Filipino with the four organizations: WBO # 2, WBA # 4, IBF # 3, WBC #13.”

As to the difference between ALA’s stars named Bazooka and Boom-Boom? “Rey ‘Boom Boom’ Bautista’s fighting style is very different from that of AJ ‘Bazooka’ Banal’s,” answered Aldeguer. “Boom Boom comes to attack with a volume of punches but Banal, for a lot of boxing experts, is the complete package. He can box. He can brawl. He has good hand speed and excellent footwork. He is versatile and can adopt to any style which confuses opponents.”

Will Alex John confuse Luis? Melligen pulverize Hernandez? Will they bring pride to Pinoys? Two nights from now, let’s watch “Pinoy Pride.”

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