by Joe Koizumi

Apr. 25, 1998
PASAY CITY, METRO MANILA, PHILIPPINES--Lefty Filipino GERRY PENALOSA, 115, retained the WBC super-flyweight title as he was held to a technical draw with #1 contender JOEL LUNA ZARATE, Mexico, 113 1/2, at 2:56 of the 2nd round at the Cuneta Astrodome. Penalosa, 39-1-2, 24 KOs, kept his title for the 3rd time since he captured it from Japan's Hiroshi Kawashima in Feb. of the previous year. Zarate is 32-2-2, 25 KOs.

It was a very disappointing result. This title bout was postponed 3 times and finally took place there before a few spectators of some 3,000. In the first round we saw a little action, as they cautiously probed each other. Penalosa landed a quick one-two combination to the face of the taller Mexican. It was only a significant blow in the opening session. All the judges --Dick Flaherty (US), Chuck Williams (US) and Jaebong Kim (Korea)--gave it to the defending champ.

The 2nd session saw Penaolsa occasionally score southpaw lefts to the still cautious Zarate who kept his guard high. After they mixed up, the champ appealed to the referee Richard Steele that there happened a headbutt. Penalosa had a cut under the right eyebrow, which was examined by Dr. Nasser Cruz due to the referee's order. The physician declared that it was too bad for Penalosa to go on. As the gash didn't look so severe and bad, Steele discussed with Dr. Cruz, but followed his medical advise. The fight was abruptly stopped without any hot action. It was a technical draw, which means that Penalosa kept his WBC throne. Since it was the mandatory defense, the WBC will very certainly order a rematch.

Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain, Zarate's trainer, severely criticized the stoppage, saying "Penalosa could continue fighting, because it was not a big cut. When we return to Mexico, we will protest to the WBC and demand a rematch."

The Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos entered the ring to deliver a trophy to Penalosa. There were more than 50 people--most of whom were media people--in the squared circle. Suddenly the canvas crashed down because of their weight. The body guards immediately carried the president out of the ring. The cave-in of the canvas was a very miserable scene caused by the poor construction of the ring.

Since the main event started at about 8:30 pm as the president arrived there, an anticipated semi-final was to be fought after the WBC title bout. It was a non-title encounter of the OPBF flyweight champ Manny Pacquiao and the OPBF junior bantam ruler Raffy Montalban, both of whom were ready to fight upon the termination of the main event. Unfortunately it was inevitably cancelled due to the destroyed ring. This reporter wanted to see their fight even on the yard or parking lot at the Cuneta Astrodome.

Andy Tabanas, IBF #2 ranked mini-fly, 108 1/4, was awarded a technical decision (58-57, 60-55 and 60-59) over ex-IBF mini-fly champ Manny Melchor, 108 1/4, at 2:40 of the 7th in a scheduled 10.

Philippine middle champ Ernie Alesana, 155, won a unanimous decision over Marlon Chinilla, 157 1/2, in a lousy and dull 10.

Philippine #1 jr. feather contender Jeffrey Onate, 125, scored a quick KO victory over Andy Alageno, 125, at 2:52 of the 2nd in a scheduled 10.

Ernesto Rubillar, more experienced hard-puncher, 105 1/2, dropped fast-moving lefty Melchor Espinosa, 108, twice en route to a quicker TKO win at 1:49 of the opening session in a scheduled 10.

Promoter: Rex Wakee Salud.

Joe Koizumi
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