WATCHING “King” Arthur Villanueva (33-4, 18 KOs) fight again after a long hiatus was truly a pleasure.
Albeit seen only through a streaming platform, still I could not help but feel nostalgic about the good old days (yes, two years seems like an eternity already) when Villanueva and his fellow-ALA Gym fighters would strut their stuff for the local boxing aficionados.
Kudos to Omega Sports Promotions and the head honchos at IPI for making “Kumbati” 8 and 9 come to fruition despite the limitations brought about by this pandemic.
ARTHUR. In his previous fight pre-Covid 19, Villanueva had failed in his bid to wrest away the WBC Bantamweight title from Nordine Oubaali of France.
Oubaali started out fast and strong and grunted his way to a sixth round stoppage of Villanueva. I’ve always thought that Villanueva was too much of a slow starter and in that fight, he really allowed the shorter, stockier champion to run away with it.
Last week, Villanueva was matched up against fellow Pinoy Bryan Tamayo, who is the total opposite of Oubaali in physical stature.
Tamayo, a tall, lanky, southpaw, was less aggressive too but boxed well enough to keep the fight competitive. Not too bad for a young upstart who now has a record of 6-2, 2KOs.
Both fighters started slow, which was Villanueva’s preferred pace.
The action picked up in the second round with Tamayo landing lead left hands and Villanueva scoring with some body shots. Action was momentarily halted on account of an accidental headbutt, which opened up a small gash on the forehead of Tamayo.
The fight took on a pattern with Tamayo able to exploit his advantage in reach by landing jabs and left hands and Villanueva countering with hooks and hard shots to the midsection.
Villanueva was definitely the stronger fighter, but Tamayo kept it quite competitive and close as he would land a telling blow here and there and uncork beautiful-looking counters as he timed “King Arthur” coming in.
The fifth was Villanueva’s dominant round, but Tamayo did well in the final round and held his own as both men looked to finish strong. I thought the scores of 59-55 all in favor of Villanueva were a tad too wide as Tamayo certainly won a round or two from what I saw.
At the end of the day, it was a small but meaningful victory not only for Villanueva but also for local boxing, as it struggles to find its footing in this new normal.
VERBATIM. “Maybe there’s a chance of luring Mayweather back into the ring.”—Oscar de la Hoya, who recently announced his comeback (www.espn.com)
LAST ROUND. It’s on a dear friend, Nini Gonzalez-Gaite, who celebrates her birthday this Sunday. Cheers!