AJ Banal obviously won the battle at the scales Friday.
Now, he needs to win the battle on the ring Saturday night to finally become a true world champion.
The 23-year-old Filipino pride takes on the biggest challenge of his career when he vies for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) bantamweight title against a Thai opponent who struggled to meet the 118-lb limit during the official weigh-in for the 12-round fight.
Rated No.1 by the WBO, Banal, nicknamed `Bazooka’ was right on target at the scales, tipping in at exactly 118 lbs. during the weigh-in at the Music Hall of the Mall of Asia Arena.
Pungluang Sor Singyu of Thailand, however, struggled to make it, coming in a pound over in his initial attempt.
Only after sweating it out and going back to the weighing scale for a fourth time did the 26-year-old Thai finally make the 118-lb. limit.
The corner of Banal knew by then that their boy already holds a psychological edge over the visitors.
“Si AJ nasa fighting at weight condition na, pero siya (Sor Singyu) nag-struggle pa sa weight, so definitely amin ang advantage,” said Banal’s chief trainer Edito Villamor.
“Hindi kami magmamadali, pero pag makahanap kami ng tiyempo, go for the knockout kami.”
Banal, holder of a 28-1-1 record with 20 KOs, has long waited for this moment since gaining prominence in the 2002 Palarong Pambansa in Naga City when he won a boxing gold medal.
“Ito po ang katuparan ng matagal ko ng pangarap, kaya gagawin ko ang lahat para manalo,” said Banal, a native of Bukidnon who has long been based in Cebu as one of the bright stars of the famed ALA boxing stable.
Sor Singyu has also lost just once in 43 pro fights in a career marked by 27 KO victories. He has also beaten 14 Filipino fighters in the past, including his last six matches.
But his struggle to make the weight left a lot of doubts on whether he can go 12 rounds with a young and aggressive warrior like Banal.
“Based sa mga napanood namin na mga tapes ng laban niya, hindi naman siya ganoon ka-aggressive sa buong 12 rounds, e,” noted Villamor.
Veteran referee Tony Weeks will be the third man in the ring, while the three judges scoring the bout are Raul Caiz Jr., Levi Martinez, and Robert Hoyle.
Meanwhile, Jason Pagara defends his WBO International light-welterweight title against unbeaten Miguel `Hands of Stone’ Antoine of Barbados in one of two main undercards in the promotion presented by ALA boxing.
Both fighters made the 140-lbs. limit.
Not as fortunate was Mexican Daniel Ruiz who came three pounds over the featherweight limit. His Filipino opponent, Rey `Boom Boom’ Bautista, was at exactly 126 lbs. as the two fight for the WBO international featherweight title.