Despite the painful ninth-round TKO suffered by southpaw AJ "Bazooka" Banal in his battle for the vacant World Boxing Organization bantamweight title against tough Thai contender Pungluang Sor Singyu at the fabulous Mall of Asia Arena last Saturday, ALA Promotions was clearly a winner and made a name for itself in Pinoy Pride XVII.
Together with the giant broadcast network ABS-CBN, ALA Promotions has elevated the level of its fight cards through the Pinoy Pride series whose 17th edition was both risky and costly considering the fact that for the first time in decades a world title fight was being staged in Manila.
As well-known TV boxing analyst and longtime boxing man Ramon "Moy" Lainez points out, Metro Manila fans have been spoiled by local politicians who often fund cards in their bailiwicks with no paying patrons, creating an unhealthy mindset that fights should be free to the public.
Regrettably, while fans often assail local promoters and TV networks for not bringing world title fights and crucial regional encounters to the Philippines and settling for sending our promising boxers to do battle in places like Mexico, Thailand and South Africa where the odds are often stacked against them, when promoters and networks dare accept the challenge, the public fails to provide the support needed to at least break even if not minimize losses.
ALA Promotions' youthful president Michael Aldeguer accepted the challenge and with the support of ABS-CBN's top honcho Gabby Lopez and  vice president for sports Peter Musngi, dared to stage the Banal-Pungluang world title fight at the MOA Arena which can accommodate over 15,000 fans.
Aldeguer wasn't ecstatic over the turnout but considering it was the first bigtime fight card in Manila and the first world title fight at the MOA Arena which cannot bank on the storied history of the Araneta Coliseum, the acknowledged "Mecca" of Philippine sports, he was pleased with the turnout of an estimated 7,000 fans, many of whom paid P5,000 for patron seats at special ringside.
In a country where boxing alongside basketball is a prime passion, we wonder how Filipinos can pay so much more for entertainment shows featuring foreign performers but are reluctant to pull out their wallets in support of a sport that showcases Filipino talents against some of the best opponents in the world.
We must also consider the reality that foreign entertainers drain our dollar revenues while our fight cards hardly compare with them in terms of dollar outflows. Bottom line is, we need to collectively demonstrate a greater sense of national pride in the things we do so darn well.
Aldeguer, in an enlightening conversation with Yahoo! Philippines before he boarded a flight to the US for the Annual WBO Convention, drew a definite distinction between ALA Promotions and ALA Gym which his father, the esteemed boxing patron Tony Aldeguer, has nurtured through the years.
Rey "Boom Boom" Bautista of the Philippines and Daniel Ruiz of Mexico gave fans 12 rounds of exciting action. (Angela …
Tony's mission has always been to provide young kids with an opportunity to provide for themselves and their families, mostly from the poor and underprivileged, a better life but more importantly to build character anchored on discipline, hard work, dedication and innate courage to chase their dreams.
"Bazooka" Banal was one such young man who began as a nine-year-old boy who honed his craft and  pursued his career with a sense of commitment in the ALA Gym. That he lost in a gallant stand against a Thai fighter who had trained at a Navy camp for months to build up his strength and endurance was no shame at all.
As WBO super bantamweight and four-division world champion Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire, who worked the fights with Atty. Ed Tolentino and myself, told Banal as he consoled him in his dressing room, he had nothing to be ashamed of and that he had the capacity to come back.
Michael Aldeguer also sought to console Banal who cried like a baby both in the ring and in his dressing room more because he felt he had let down Tony and Michael Aldeguer as well as the country.
Aldeguer pointed out that WBA light welterweight champion Amir Khan who had been built up as a rising superstar had suffered a similar fate when he was beaten by Lamont Peterson and was then knocked out in four rounds by Danny Garcia, the current WBC/WBA champion.
Michael, removed from the emotional dimensions of the heartbreaking loss, told us Banal's career will be "put on hold" although he conceded "he tried his best."
Michael noted that the first time Banal went down and referee Tony Weeks ruled it a slip, Pungluang "knew he got him" which is exactly what the Thai told us, speaking through his promoter, the charming Pariyakorn Ratanasuban of the big Thai outfit, OneSongchai Promotions.
The ALA Promotions president is clear about what he wants to see. He admits that they "cannot rely solely on ALA boxers to bring boxing to world heights. We want to be the umbrella promotional organization to showcase Filipino fighters" pointing out that when promoter Rex "Wakee" Salud called and requested that Marvin Tapales be included in the card he promptly agreed, knowing the caliber of Tapales.
Overall, Aldeguer regarded the "Pinoy Pride XVII" card as "a good start, a ground-breaking effort for the Philippines" even as he vowed to provide "entertainment, by giving the fans great fights" such as the WBO International featherweight ten-round war between popular Rey "Boom Boom" Bautista and Mexican warrior Daniel Ruiz which, in many ways, resembled the action-packed, brutal "Fight of the Year" top candidate featuring Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios and Mike Alvarado at the Home Depot Center in Carson City, California the previous week on the undercard of the Donaire-Toshiaki Nishioka title showdown.
Michael Aldeguer said his father and the ALA Gym had "a legacy of helping street kids" but that ALA Promotions wants to advance the cause of boxing and in so doing "develop our promising fighters, take a step forward and also help our country."
Aldeguer is not only looking to embrace talented fighters from other stables like Braveheart Boxing of former Cotabato governor Manny Pinol and Wakee Salud's outfit but also fighters from the Elorde brothers Johnny and Gabriel "Bebot" Elorde. He also wants to send the best to train under former world champion and top-notch trainer Robert Garcia whose stable of champions is growing.
To this end Michael plans to look at "promising Filipino-American boxers who don't get a chance to shine" in the boxing scene in the United States and is ready "to promote fights in California next year."
We recall that some years ago ALA Promotions together with Golden Boy Promotions of Oscar De La Hoya staged the second "World Cup of Boxing" at the Arco Arena in Sacramento which the Philippines won by a lopsided 5-1 margin over a favored Mexican squad with "Boom Boom" Bautista the only casualty, losing by a first-round knockout to the menacing Daniel Ponce De Leon in the main event.
The Pinoy Pride XVII card virtually reprised that fight card.  Banal lost in the main event but Bautista, extremely promising 20-year-old junior welterweight Jason Pagara's crushing first-round knockout of previously undefeated  Miguel "Hands of Stone" Antoine who, according to Donaire "threw some big shots early in the round" and reminded him of Andre Berto, Michael Domingo who made short work of Uganda's Mutte Ntambi Rabison and Tapales who hammered Indonesia's Rasmanudin helped the  Philippines keep the handsome World Cup trophy 3-1.
Far more significant however was the major step forward made by ALA Promotions' initial success in bringing world championship boxing to a venue that can compare with the best in the world and Michael Aldeguer's vision of making the Philippines - together with ABS-CBN - the epicenter of boxing in Asia and to take Philippine boxers and boxing to world heights.
If billiards could earn the distinction, there is no reason that boxing, which has a storied history of champions from Pancho Villa to Gabriel "Flash" Elorde and Manny Pacquiao, cannot achieve the same status.
Pinoy Pride XVII gave initial substance to youthful Aldeguer's vision and it's now up to our people to make this dream a reality by their wholehearted support. Anything less would be disappointing if not a crying shame.



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