In a world-title fight that had a bizarre ending, Filipino boxer Carlo Caesar Peñalosa failed in his bid to snatch the vacant International Boxing Organization (IBO) flyweight crown after bowing to Maximino Flores of Mexico in a controversial 7th round technical decision.
The title bout, held in Novaliches, Quezon City, was supposed to be a chance for Florida-based IBO to gain a little more credibility as the fight was nationally televised and beamed live worldwide via video streaming.
Everything went from good to bad, though, when referee Garry Dean of Australia took the microphone from the ring announcer during the break between the 6th and 7th rounds, telling the crowd that he was calling a halt to the match as Peñalosa had a supposed serious cut on his left eyebrow, which was caused by an accidental headbutt in the third round.
Everything went eerily silent for a while until ring physician Dr. Noel Napa proceeded to the corner of Peñalosa, took a closer look at the Filipino's cut then was later on overheard telling Dean he never said anything about any stoppage, prompting the referee to tell both fighters to continue the match for Round 7.
"I think the referee was probably a bit unaware that he is the sole arbiter of the fight but in my opinion the cut was bad it had to be stopped much earlier," said IBO supervisor Steve Scott.
Had Dean stuck with his decision to wave off the match, it would have ended in a technical draw as one judge had Peñalosa winning (57-56), with the second judge giving it to Flores (58-56) while the third judge had it a draw (57-57).
Flores and his camp threatened to walk out of the ring as they saw no need to continue. The Mexican eventually agreed to answer the bell for the seventh where he continued his fight plan, an unrelenting attack to Peñalosa's body.
Peñalosa gamely took on Flores and was actually effective in parrying the Mexican's body shots by using his arms and shoulders as his body shield and was still able to connect clean and crisp counter hooks and straights.
Peñalosa's cut became too nasty by the end of the 7th round, though, a development that made the referee and ring physician finally agree to stop the match and go to the scorecards.
Adam Height of Australia scored it 67-66 for Flores while New Zealand judge Kevin Pyne penned it 67-66 for Penalosa. Filipino judge Jerrold Tomeldan saw it 68-65 for Flores, making the Mexican a newly crowned IBO flyweight champion.
"Siguro sa 10 suntok sa katawan, 2 lang tumama sa akin pero 'yung dalawa na 'yun, kinaya ko naman," Peñalosa said after the bout. " 'Yung hook and straight ko talagang maganda ang timing sa atake niya kaya tingin ko panalo talaga dapat ako."
Peñalosa's trainer and uncle, Jonathan, himself a former boxer who once reigned as WBC International flyweight champion, was exasperated at how the Filipino judge saw the fight.
"Alam namin ganu'n ang laro ng Mexican kaya pinag-aralan talaga namin na ganu'n ang galaw namin tapos buhos na kami sa 8th round," revealed Jonathan. "Bakit naman 'yung Pinoy judge pa ang ganun ang score samantalang 'yung foreigner na judge, tayo ang panalo?"
Peñalosa, 26, who fell to 14-2, 7 by knockout, was eyeing a historic win as he would have been the first-ever second-generation Filipino boxer to claim a world crown. Peñalosa is the nephew of brothers Dodie Boy and Gerry, the country's only boxing brothers, who each won two division world championships.
With the victory, Flores, 28, (25-4-1, 17 KOs) elevated himself to a celebrated status as the IBO strap that he will bring home to his hometown of Baja California was once worn by boxing icons Moruti Mthalane of South Africa, Vic Darchinyan of Australia and Filipino-American Nonito Donaire, Jr.
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