By Ronnie Nathanielsz
A day before his WBA International super flyweight title fight against Panama’s Ricardo Nunez, the WBA’s No. 2 ranked contender who is also ranked No.1 by the WBC, Drian “Gintong Kamao/ Golden Fist” Francisco said Nunez "is the key" in a bid for a title shot at the winner of the battle between Hugo Cazares andNoubu Nashiro on May 8 in Osaka, Japan.
If Nunez was the key Francisco unlocked him in a hurry dropping him twice in the opening round, having him in dire straits in the fourth and finally sending him crashing to the canvas twice in the fifth with international referee Bruce McTavish calling a halt to save the badly battered Nunez from further injury. The time of the TKO was 2:52 of the fifth round.
The victory signaled Francisco’s domination of the Panamanians having earlier scored a 10th round TKO over former world champion Roberto Vasquez also in a Solar Sports presentation of its “Battle of the Bay” series which was held this time at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City and titled "Young Guns."
Francisco lived up to the title by coming out with both hands blazing. A cracking left hook early in round one sent a stunned Nunez crashing to the canvas and as Filipino fight fans jumped to their feet and cheered the hometown boy he sent the Panamanian down for a second time with another awesome right and left combination. A terribly groggy Nunez beat the count and hung on for dear life. Internationally respected referee Bruce McTavish who was picked by the WBA to referee instead of Filipino referee Ver Abainza to ensure strict neutralitys appeared tolerant of the holding violation. That's clearly becaude he didn't wish to disrupti the frantic action to give Nunez a caution and thereby break the rhythm of Francisco’s blazing start.
It was a minor miracle that Nunez survived that opening round but what was even more surprising is that he fought back in the second and began to connect with some body shots in an effort to stem the Filipino’s aggression as Francisco continued to nail him with his left.
Nunez tried to box but after being rocked by another stinging left from Francisco, McTavish had no choice but to warm Nunez for excessive holding before Francisco clipped him with another stinging left just before the bell sounded to end round three.
The Panamanian continued to work to the body but left himself open and was ripped by a looping left hand that had him in trouble once again in round four.
Francisco connected with a series of lefts and then hammered Nunez with a right that sent the WBA No.2 reeling back. With his mouth bloodied by the incessant pounding of Francisco, Nunez tried gamely to fight back but Franciso dropped him twice with beautiful combinations capped by a thundering left hook and the second time around Nunez was out cold.
McTavish didn’t bother to count because there was no way Nunez was going to get up even as the Games and Amusements Board boxing division chief Dr. Nasser Cruz and GAB physician Dr. Viernes rushed into the ring to attend to the hapless Nunez.
Well-liked Panamanian boxing fan Carlos Costa, a regular fixture at big fights and a fan of Philippine boxing looked in dismay at the results which was aggravated by the fact that he wagered a friendly $1,000 bet with the manager of Francisco, Elmer Anuran and lost.
Costa very correctly insisted on taking Nunez to the nearby Medical City to have him checked up including having a CTScan. He informed us that everything was fine as the blood pressure of Nunez was 120/70, he had no fever and he didn’t complain of a headache but he had a little sinusitis which he apparently had from his childhood. Costa said Nunez “doesn’t look bad but said he was hungry and he went back to the hotel and ate spaghetti in his room.”
Costa said Nunez started a little cold and Francisco “who has a very good left hook caught him. It was a little unorthodox and Nunez who is more orthodox was not expecting something like that. It came out of nowhere. Francisco punches hard and he caught him (Nunez) on the chin and he didn’t regroup himself.”
Costa praised Nunez for “being very brave because any other fighter who gets knocked down like that twice in the first round would give up.” At the same time he quoted Nunez as saying “I tried my very best, I have no excuses and the other guy was a better man tonight and I wish him well in his career.”
In a post fight interview Francisco said he didn’t expect to drop Nunez in the very first round but once he did he wanted to finish him off “however, he was resilient and came back in the second round.” He said while Nunez threw a lot of punches “he didn’t have power.”
Francisco said that at the end of the third round “I knew I could handle him and in round four I found the distance when punching . Besides since he is an orthodox fighter he was more open to my left which is where I have the power.”
Manager Elmer Anuran said that compared to his last fight against Vasquez, Francisco’s left was “even much stronger and we’ve seen a big improvement and especially with his cat-like reflexes its hard to catch him. Of course the most important was his will to win because this fight was very important and this was how to go after the world title.”
Anuran revealed that the WBA had “confirmed” that the winner of the Francisco-Nunez bout would get “the mandatory slot for the world title against the winner of the Nashiro-Cazares title fight. The youthful manager said "I will begin to talk with the WBA again and Mr. (Akihiko) Honda of Japan (manager of Nashiro” and Nacho Huizer , the manager of Cazares. We will wait to see who wins on May 8.”