Fourth grade… I drop my favorite slippers on the beach while watching all the small fishes eating bread crumbs I was stupid and reacted on instinct as I jump towards the water without thinking that I couldn’t swim. I was in panicked mode as I drop down rock bottom until a hand caught my arms and brought me back in harm’s way.
AJ Banal who grew up in the streets of Ermita, Cebu had to deal life with an iron fist. He boxed his way out of poverty and won several amateur awards before joining the ALA stable. Fighting on an undefeated record at 17-0-1 before Rafael Concepcion exposed the young boxer’s vulnerability. Z Gorres and AJ Banal are ALA’s most promising and potential world champions but they have one thing in common they both fade on the later part on their respective match. AJ Banal had to stand only to sheer determination when his knees failed him many times during the Concepcion fight. You count the times when Z Gorres wobbled his knees and fall to the canvas with slight tap from Vic Darchinyan’s gloves. Conditioning can be a factor but maybe sparring with multiple and bigger partners have taken its toll during fight night or maybe they are fighting mostly handpicked opponents and when they encounter the real opposition they succumbed to pressure. That happened to Boomboom Bautista while taking on Ponce De Leon and a thud on the head when he was defeated on the hands of a journeyman Heriberto Ruiz. AJ Banal went from the bottom all the way to the top on his boxing career but have to endure a heartbreaking loss in front of his people to know that there is still much room for improvement in the end. Jose Angel Beranza ate all Banal’s power punches and still survived in 10 lopsided rounds even though Banal controlled the fight most of the way but the later rounds when AJ was caught with good right hooks it was like déjà vu on the Concepcion fight. But AJ kept his composure and went on to win the fight last Saturday. It seems it was one of AJ’s toughest test so far but his maturity have got him the win when a young AJ could have lambasted his way on Beranza and got caught with those powershots carelessly.
They say when you are in the rock bottom there’s no way to go but up but sometimes we don’t have to go to the bottom when a helping hand is guiding us to the top. AJ’s life may have been like that… from the busy slumps to the limelight in Las Vegas Casino… but nonetheless it’s quite reassuring when we’re down and people still believes on us… giving a helping hand whenever we falter… Just like the hand that helped me on the verge of nothingness just like AJ’s.