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Lessons from first defeat

Manila Diary by JULIET SIMBRE

Respected boxing trainer Freddie Roach once described “Prince” Albert Pagara as one of the best Filipino fighters today and a future world champion. That was before the Filipino jawcracker would square off with Mexican toughie Cesar Juarez last July 9.

For one, Pagara was undefeated in 26 professional fights.

In preparation for the biggest fight of his budding career, the 22-year-old Cebuano worked out at the famed Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, where Roach has seen him in action. Roach even did the punch-mitts sessions with him and saw the Filipino’s potential.

“I think he may be a future champion,” said the coach.

Pagara is already ranked No. 2 by the World Boxing Organization (WBO) in the junior featherweight (122 lbs.) division, and he is in a position to just take his sweet time and wait for that eventual mandatory title shot.

With a future as bright as his bleach-blonde hair, Pagara, however, opted to ask for a match with the 24-year old Mexico City native, who boasts a 17-5 professional record with 13 knockouts, to prove a point that he’s ready to go for the world title. Fact is, the cocky, confident and brash Pagara has taken care of business in his last 26 outings, and 18 of those have ended in brutal knockouts, making him one of the most feared Filipino boxers today. 

In San Mateo, California, however, an exhausted Pagara suffered his first career loss at the hands of the former world title contender who also claimed the WBO Intercontinental Super Bantamweight championship from the Filipino.

Pagara failed to answer the ten-count in the eight round after getting dropped by Juarez 15 seconds into the round during the main event of the Pinoy Pride 37: Fists of the Future at the San Mateo Events Center. Pagara, who took a while to get back up, was conscious but needed to be stretchered out of the venue and was taken to a nearby hospital. 

Pagara got off to a sizzling start, knocking down Juarez with a huge hook in the first round. But the slow-starting Juarez recovered and retaliated by bombarding Pagara’s body with debilitating shots

After absorbing a ton of body shots from Juarez by the end of the seventh round, a visibly drained Pagara slumped to his corner.

Juarez swarmed all over Pagara and unloaded a searing combination that dumped him in his corner. Referee Edward Collantes made the 10-count and the fight was over.

It can be recalled that the granite chinned Juarez has seen a brutal fight against Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire Jr. last December. Donaire dropped Juarez twice, but the Mexican kept on coming until the “The Filipino Flash” won via decision.

Well, Pagara’s future may now be in shambles after that traumatic defeat, but definitely it’s not yet the end of the road for him.

At his young age and world-class potential, Pagara still has time on side. He will, however, have to work his way back to title contention.

Of course, it is not going to be easy because but it will serve him well not to dwell on the loss and go back to the gym the moment he receives a clean bill of health.

As they say, the road to a boxing throne is not paved in gold. It is bumpy, riddled with challenges aimed at testing a fighter’s resolve. Now, more than ever, Pagara needs to embrace the Filipino warrior’s persona.

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