WHEN he shows up at the Solaire Resort and Casino on Saturday to defend his World Boxing Organization (WBO) Intercontinental junior featherweight (122 pounds) championship against Venezuelan Alexander Muñoz, Filipino prospect Genesis ‘Azukal’ Servania will be looking to hurdle what could very well be the final obstacle in his quest for a shot at the regular world championship.
Bacolod City native Servania, who has amassed an unbeaten record of 23-0 with nine knockouts since turning pro in 2009, is currently ranked No. 3 by the WBO in its junior featherweight rankings. Servania trails only American Chris 'Hitman' Avalos and fellow Filipino Nonito Donaire, Jr., but impending developments in the weight class point to Servania getting a title shot ahead of schedule.
Donaire, who lost the WBO junior featherweight belt to slick Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux last year, is all set to move up to the featherweight (126 pounds) division on May 31 to challenge reigning World Boxing Association (WBA) kingpin Simpiwe Vetyeka of South Africa. If Donaire succeeds in wresting the featherweight belt from Vetyeka, Rigondeaux is expected to give up the WBO junior featherweight crown and pursue a return match with the ‘Filipino Flash’ at featherweight. With Donaire out of the equation, Servania could end up swapping mitts with Avalos for the vacant WBO junior featherweight hardware.
But before Servania can think that far, he has to get past Muñoz, a veteran who is on a mission to pump some life back into his flickering boxing career.
Muñoz is reporting for battle with a record of 36-5 with 28 knockouts. Easily noticeable is the Venezuelan’s higher knockout percentage, and the guy is evidently banking on this remaining asset in his arsenal to carry him past Servania. Muñoz is already 35 years old and has been hitting the sandbag since 1998, but the fact that he can still swing for the fence and topple it makes him a live underdog.
Muñoz was an outstanding amateur boxer, compiling 129 knockouts out of 163 victories. He is also a two-time champion in the junior bantamweight (115 pounds) class, initially winning the WBA’s version of the crown with an eighth-round knockout of Japan’s Celes Kobayashi in 2002. Muñoz lost the belt to Martin Castillo in December 2004 but regained it in 2007 by decisioning Nobuo Nashiro. A year later, Muñoz yielded the crown to Mexican Cristian Mijares.
Muñoz has since been groping for form. He moved up to the bantamweight (118 pounds) division in December 2010 but lost on points to WBA champion Koki Kameda. Muñoz went inactive for almost two years, returning only to the ring in November 2012 when he knocked out trialhorse Ever Hernandez in six frames. In his next ring outing, Muñoz showed a lot of ring rust in a fifth-round knockout loss to Leo Santa Cruz in May 2013 - the first knockout loss of his career.
Muñoz is a boxer-fighter who loves to move forward and take over a fight with pressure. This style suits Servania well, as the Filipino is a clever boxer-counterpuncher. Lately, though, Servania has been planting his feet and flailing away without remorse. Servania has knocked out four of his last six adversaries, and looked sensational in decapitating Panamanian Rafael Concepcion in two rounds last October. Against a heavy puncher like Muñoz, it will serve Servania well to go back to his cautious, counter-punching approach. Servania cannot be that overzealous on offense as Muñoz still has some mojo left in his fists.
Make no mistake, though, Servania is the clear money bet to prevail. Muñoz will have been inactive for 10 months when the bell rings and the ring rust is likely to manifest during the fight. The key for Servania is to be patient and take down the Venezuelan star one brick at a time before pulling out the cannonball.