FOR super bantamweight (122 pounds) world title prospect Genesis 'Azukal' Servania, revenge is best served with a little sugar in it.
Five years ago at the Cebu Coliseum, Panamanian slugger Rafael 'El Torito' Concepcion posted the biggest upset by a visiting boxer in the popular boxing series 'Pinoy Pride' when he knocked out then undefeated AJ 'Bazooka' Banal in their battle for the interim World Boxing Association (WBA) super flyweight (115 pounds) title.
Banal came out strong and repeatedly rocked Concepcion with wicked combinations. Concepcion, however, stood his ground and kept barging his way inside. By the 10th round, a drained Banal dropped to the seat of his pants and failed to beat the count.
Concepcion returned to Cebu for 'Pinoy Pride XXII' looking to shock another unbeaten Filipino prospect. While older (31 years old) and heavier (122 pounds), Concepcion oozed with confidence and vowed to knock the daylights out of Bacolod City native Servania. To drive home his point, Concepcion even brought with him a pillow which he claimed was his special gift for Servania.
A native of Panama City, Concepcion turned pro in 2002 with a second-round knockout of Carlos Murillo. After a rocky start, Concepcion amassed an eight-fight winning streak between June 2005 and July 2008.
The biggest victory, of course, came at the expense of Banal. Concepcion went downhill thereafter, getting stopped in nine rounds by Mexican Jorge Arce in September 2008 and dropping lopsided decision to Nonito Donaire Jr. a year later.
In July 2010, Concepcion fought for the World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Organization (WBO) bantamweight (118 pounds) titles and was viciously demolished in three rounds by Mexican Fernando Montiel.
Concepcion was inactive in 2012 and returned to the ring only last April 20, scoring an eight-round unanimous decision over German Lara. The ring rust was evident as Concepcion had to recover from a fourth round knockdown.
While a clear underdog, Concepcion was still looked upon as a threat to the relatively untested Servania. The 22-year-old entered the ring with only eight knockouts in his 22-0 resume. Unlike Banal who flaunted more power, Servania merited attention for his slick counterpunching skills. In his last outing before the Concepcion fight, Servania tried to fight macho and almost paid the price.
He came out with both guns blazing against Japanese Konosuke Tomiyama in July and ended up locking lips with the canvas twice in the opening round. In a wild shootout, Servania returned the favor by also flooring Tomiyama in the first round. An accidental head-butt opened a cut on Servania's left eye and he ended up winning the fight on a ninth round technical decision.
Predictably, Servania came out more cautious against Concepcion. Fully aware that Concepcion had been inactive, Servania laced his assaults with occasional body blows. Servania wobbled Concepcion early with wicked right straights, but Concepcion responded well by retaliating with overhand right hands that had Servania stepping back. The opening round ended with Servania pelting Concepcion with hard shots to the head.
Concepcion came out in the second round looking to buy some time to clear the cobwebs in his head. He resorted to holding and hitting, an illegal tactic that drew a warning from referee Bruce McTavish. There was no delaying the inevitable though as Servania went for the kill. A combination sent Concepcion staggering along the ropes and as he tried to lunge back into the thick of the fight Servania unloaded a howitzer counter right uppercut that dropped the Panamanian to the canvas like a log. Referee McTavish did not bother to count as Servania's camp celebrated in a frenzy. The official time was 2:04 of the second round. It took Concepcion (18-7, with 8 knockouts) several minutes to get back on his feet. He was later brought to a nearby hospital to ensure that he did not sustain serious damage from the fistic debris he absorbed.
'Pinag-aralan ko po talaga yung style niya; pinanood ko po lahat ng videos ng laban niya," a jubilant Servania told this writer. 'Tuloy-tuloy na po ito hanggang sa championship. Bahala na po ang manager ko sa akin.'
Slowly but surely, Genesis is emerging as the new testament of Philippine boxing. For the young man who grew up in a home with no running water, and whose mother had to sell fish to make both ends meet, Servania is in a good position to cash in on the punch-for-pay business. He has drawn attention for being well-schooled in the fundamentals of the sport, but in the Concepcion fight Servania also showed that his fists are fully capable of toppling condemned buildings.