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Concepcion Stops Banal

By Francisco Chantengo: In something of a shocker, super flyweight Rafael Concepcion (11-2-1, 7 KOs) defeated number #4 ranked AJ Banal (17-1-1, 14 KOs) in a 10th round TKO on Saturday night at the Cebu Coliseum, in Cebu City, Philippines. Concepcion landed a powerful right to the head of Banal in the 10th round, causing him to take a knee and be counted out by referee Raul Caiz Jr at 2:35 of the 10th round.

Banal had been deducted a point at the end of the 9th round after landing a right uppercut after the bell. It seemed to be a retaliatory move made because Concepcion, 26, had spun Banal around and then while his back was still turned he attacked him and landed a right hand to the head just as he was turning around. The deduction seemed to bother Banal a great deal, because he didn’t seem with it in the 10th round.

A short time before he was dropped, he clashed heads hard with Concepcion, causing him to wince in pain and retreat to the side of the ring and recover from the pain. Its unclear how effected Banal was by the head butt, because he didn’t seem to be fighting the same way after the combination of the head butt and point deduction, seeming distracted by the turn of events. When he did go down to a knee, Banal seemed to be perfectly fine, as if he decided to stay down on his own rather than being too hurt to get up. Once the fight was stopped, Banal sprang to his feet and walked around as if nothing had happened.

Early in the fight, Banal got off to an uncharacteristically slow start, throwing few punches in the rounds and allowing Concepcion to swarm him and land often with weak shots. Most of the punches had little on them and compared unfavorably with the monstrous punches that Banal was landing, but the problem was, Banal wasn’t letting his hands go.

Having seen almost every one of Banal’s fights previously, I couldn’t understand why he was refusing to punch back at Concepcion. It was like he wasn’t into the fight mentally and not prepared to engage on this night. When Banal would throw shots, it had a huge effect on Concepcion, driving him back, bloodying his nose and snapping his head back from the force of the big blows.

Banal continued to show little interest in the fight until the 4th round, when he suddenly hurt Concepcion with a powerful left hand to the head. He then rained punches on his with great frequency for the remainder of the rounds, but wasn’t able to put the finishing touches on the knockout.

Just as quick as Banal had come to life, he went back immediately to not punching in the 5th round. Concepcion often lowered his head and came running at Banal during the round, hitting him in the midsection and clashing heads with him. This, too, seemed to cause Banal to fight with greater caution, with more reluctance. He seemed not to know how to stop Concepcion’s head first charges other than to stay on the outside and try to dodge him when he would come rushing in like a little ram.

In rounds six through eight, Banal began to take the fight to Concepcion, hitting him with powerful left hands to the head and right hooks. Concepcion still continued to fly forward at Banal, but he was paying a heavy price when he would, getting with powerful left uppercuts which would stop his momentum. This was the longest consistent time that Banal fought with interest in the fight after seeming bored and not into the fight earlier.

In the 9th round, Banal appeared well on his way to winning the round when he was suddenly spun around by Concepcion at the end of the round. As I mentioned earlier, just as Banal was getting turned around, Concepcion landed a right hand to the head. The bell then ended the round, but Banal, now looking a little upset, hit Concepcion with a short uppercut to the head. Referee Raul Caiz Jr. immediately deducted a point from Banal for the punch, without saying anything of the incident that led up to the punch.

Early in the 10th round, Concepcion came charging forward and rammed heads violently with Banal. Afterwards, Concepcion walked back to the ring ropes and stood there for a moment recovering from the head butt. After the action resumed, he now had the upper hand, as Banal seemed not happy and wasn’t punching back. A short time later, Concepcion hit Banal with a right hand, not a big punch mind you, which caused Banal to take a knee. He then looked on at the referee as he was counted out.

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