By Ronnie Nathanielsz
Excitement is growing in the picturesque province of Bohol as fight fans look forward to the battle between AJ “Bazooka” Banal (21-1, 17 KO’s) and tough Japanese and former WBO super flyweight interim champion Big Yoo (16-2, 11 KO’s) in a presentation of the famed ALA Promotions and the giant broadcast network ABS-CBN at the Carlos P. Garcia Stadium in Tagbiliaran, Bohol on July 17.
The fight card will be telecast over the pre-eminent Channel 2 at 10:15 a.m. on July 18 with a replay on Studio 23 at 10:00 p.m.
Boxing fans will get an extra treat when popular Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista (28-2, 21 KO’s) will engage OPBF title challenger Fernando Otic in a three-round exhibition bout as Bautista prepares for his big test following surgery on his left wrist , at the Waterfront Hotel on July 28 against a certified Mexican puncher, Luis Alberto Perez who has a record of 26-4 with 17 knockouts.
Banal’s battle with Big Yoo is another deliberate step in his campaign to earn a world title shot after four successive and impressive wins following a stunning 10th round KO loss to Rafael “El Torito” Concepcion in a WBA super flyweight interim title fight on July 26, 2008 when he was ahead on the scorecards of all three judges. Concepcion will face WBC/WBO bantamweight champion Fernando “Cochulito” Montiel in a title fight in Mexico also on July 17 with the Panamanian replacing the injured mandatory challenger Eric Morel.
The southpaw Banal is coming off a 4th round knockout of Mexico’s Cecilio Santos who had previously fought some of the best super flyweights and bantamweights in title fights including the likes of Jorge Arce, Fernando Montiel, Dimitri Kirilov and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr among others.
Banal is currently rated No. 4 by the WBC, IBF and WBO and No. 12 by the WBA and an impressive win on Saturday and then again on July 28 against Perez will surely put him in loe for a world title shot.
Banal is aware of the challenges before him and by all accounts has trained hard and is in great shape for his first test against Big Yoo on Saturday.
The international coordinator of the Japan Boxing Commission and the Oriental Pacific Boxing Federation – OPBF – Koji Ishizuka cleared the confusion over the real identity and nationality of the fighter whose ring name is Big Yoo. Ishizuka told us that Big Yoo is Hayato Kimura’s alias. Ishizuka said “he is Japanese but is now under contract with a Korean manager” so he is effectively under the Korean Boxing Commission. Big Yoo resides in Seoul, Korea and is also known to use the alias Joon-in Yoo.
Too young to get a license in Japan, Kimura went to Thailand where he made his debut in Bangkok in a six round bout and went on to win three straight fights and fought under the name Hayato Chuwatana and was rated No. 4 .
He moved back to South Korea and in June 2007 won the South Korean super flyweight title with a 3rd round knockout of Jin-Ki Jung in only his eighth professional bout...
Known for his speed, Big Yoo also has a reputation for being a ferocious body puncher. The 20 year old fighter has a record of 16-2 with 11 knockouts. In his last fight Big Yoo scored a big 5th round TKO over the Philippines BJ Dolorosa in Tokyo on April 6 this year after unexpectedly dropping a ten round decision to another Filipino Brix Ray in Daegu, Korea on January 3.He lost a close split decision in a battle for the vacant Korean bantamweight title to Seung Suk Chae. Big Yoo is currently ranked No. 6 by the OPBF