DESPITE the long layoff, KJ Cataraja didn’t show signs of ring rust as he destroyed three-time world title challenger John Mark Apolinario in the opening round of the main event of Sanman Promotions and ZIP Management’s “bubble” boxing event, “Vengeance”, on Dec. 17, 2020 at the Sanman Boxing Gym.
Cataraja looked sharp despite not seeing any action for 15 months. He was on point with his timing and consistently landed his body shots.
Cataraja unleashed a devastating left hook that dropped Apolinario on one knee. Apolinario was wincing in pain and was counted out by the referee in the 2:12 mark.
“At first it felt a little bit awkward, but I still got it. I felt no pressure at all,” Cataraja told SunStar Cebu.
Even though the 25-year-old native of Tabuelan, Cebu had no fights for more than a year, Cataraja spent his time honing his skills as a sparring partner for Japanese stars Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka in Japan.
“For now, I’m happy that I executed what I wanted to do in the fight. Sparring with Inoue was a huge help in improving my game. I learned from him his style of body punching. Hopefully I can fight for an interim world title at least,” Cataraja.
Cataraja is rated No. 12 in the World Boxing Organization (WBO) super flyweight division. If he keeps beating opponents of Apolinario’s caliber, it won’t be long before he moves up into the ranks and contend for a world title.
“I feel I can beat him. I believe I can beat a fighter of his level,” Cataraja said of the possibility of challenging current WBO super flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka.
Cataraja remained unbeaten with a record of 12-0 with 10 knockouts, while Apolinario dropped to 20-14-3 with five knockouts.
Cataraja’s fellow former ALA Boys–Jeo Santisima, Melvin Jerusalem and Esneth Domingo–were also impressive in their debut fights for their new handlers Sanman Promotions and ZIP Management.
Santisima (20-3, 17 KOs) knocked out Marjon Piencenves (6-2-1, 4 KOs) with left hook to the jaw in the 58 second mark of the second round.
Jerusalem (16-2, 10 KOs), on the other hand, also made quick work of Jayson Francisco (5-3, 1 KO) and stopped him in the second round with a well-time body shot, while Esneth Domingo (14-1, 8 KOs) demolished Gerald Alvarez (4-10-1, 4 KOs) in two rounds.
Regie Mananquil (3-2, 1 KO) beat a game Rio Gulipatan (1-6-2) via unanimous decision in the show’s curtain raiser./ EKA