By Ronnie Nathanielsz
Things appear to be looking up for famed ALA Promotions prospect AJ “Bazooka” Banal, the reigning WBO Asia Pacific bantamweight champion who is ranked No. I by the WBO and No. 3 by the IBF as he has an opportunity to fight for the title under either world organization.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told BoxingScene.com/Manila Standard during a conversation in San Antonio, Texas, that Jorge “Travieso” Arce is moving back up to bantamweight to fight four-division champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire who won the WBO title beating former champion Wilfredo Vazquez Jr handily last February 4 at the Alamadome in San Antonio.
Donaire’s manager Cameron Dunkin confirmed the fight and with the specialist’s findings that Donaire’s left hand wasn’t broken as originally feared, chances are the Arce fight will go ahead sometime in May either in the Cowboys Stadium in Texas or the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
With Arce moving up to fight Donaire it leaves the WBO bantamweight title vacant although as of now Arce’s handlers haven’t confirmed his decision to move back to 122 and formally notified the WBO.
In another development IBF Championship Committee chairman Lindsey Tucker has announced that since 118 pound champion Abner Mares has informed the IBF he was relinquishing his title and not fighting mandatory challenger Vusi Malinga of South Africa, the IBF had given the handlers of Banal and Malinga some 90 days within which to finalize negotiations for a title fight. If Branco Milenkovic who handles Malinga is unable to come to terms with ALA Promotions president Michael Aldeguer then the IBF will order a purse bid.
Should Banal opt to fight for the vacant WBO title he will face Thailand’s Pungluang Sor Singyu, the WBO Oriental interim champion and the WBO Asia Pacific Youth champion who is 23 years old and has an impressive record of 39-1 with 26 knockouts.
On the other hand is ALA Promotions decide to go after the IBF title then Banal will clash with Vusi “Marvelous” Malinga the 29 year old southpaw with a record of 20-3-1 with 12 knockouts who, in his last fight, beat Banal’s stablemate Michael Domingo by a twelve round unanimous decision in a title eliminator in South Africa on October 30, 2010.
Banal himself a southpaw is 23 years old and boasts of a record of 26-1-1 with 19 knockouts and is one of the ALA fighters being eyed by Top Rank alongside undefeated WBO No.1 flyweight Milan Melindo to figure in forthcoming Top Rank fight cards in the US.
Arum told us that he wants the ALA fighters to train in the Top Rank Gym in Las Vegas before being featured on the fight cards of Top Rank promotions.