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AJ Banal Targets a Title, But He Must Beat Hidalgo First

By Ronnie Nathanielsz

AJ “Bazooka” Banal who is looking to challenge for a world title this year should have no problem disposing of Mexico’s Raul Hidalgo when they clash for Banal’s WBO Asia Pacific bantamweight title at the Cebu Waterfront Hotel & Casino on Saturday.

The fight will headline the extremely successful “Pinoy Pride” series which will telecast its 13th edition titled “Road to Glory” on ABS-CBN on Sunday.

The southpaw Banal who is ranked No. 1 by the WBO, No. 3 by the IBF and the WBA and No. 5 by the WBC has a record of 26-1-1 with 19 knockouts while his Mexican opponent Hidalgo has a record of 16-5 with 12 knockouts.

Hidalgo is coming of back-to-back wins beginning with an eight round split decision victory over former world super flyweight title challenger Victor Zaleta who had an impressive record of 19-2 with 10 knockouts on January 28 this year followed by a 2nd round TKO over unheralded Macario Leyva who had a record of 3-8 with 2 knockouts on February 25.

However, Hidalgo was knocked out in the first round of a battle for the vacant WBC International super flyweight title when he made the mistake of engaging Kameda early in the fight and paid the price. The tough Japanese caught him with two shots to the liver and as he agonized in pain referee Manolo Alcocer counted Hidalgo out at 2:20 of round one.

However, with his two recent wins the Mexican warrior is confident he could scuttle Banal’s title bid by beating him. In a statement prior to the Mexicans arrival on Wednesday at 9:45 p.m. in Cebu, Hidalgo said “We Mexicans always fight to win and I will make sure to win in any way possible.”

He said he is “very excited” about the fight and he hopes to “excite the fans when they come to watch us on Saturday.”

Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation flyweight champion Rocky Fuentes takes on Mexican Javier “El Chivero Franco in a ten round bout with the hard-hitting Fuentes favored to win and also step in line for a world title shot since he is ranked No. 4 by the WBO, No. 3 by the WBC and IBF and No. 5 by the WBA behind a record of 32-6-2 with 19 knockouts.

Franco is coming off an eight round unanimous decision over Jorge Garcia who hadn’t won a fight with a 0-2 record according to boxrec.com last March 3 prior to which he scored a 1st round TKO over Luis Carlos Jimenez who had a record of 1-7 with 1 knockout making Fuentes a prohibitive favorite to win.

But just like Hidalgo and most Mexican fighters Franco didn’t back off and promised “I will do what I can to give a grand performance for the fans to remember. I will be going for the win.”

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