Arthur Villanueva of the ALA boxing stable was once considered as one of the brightest prospects in Philippine boxing, however things have dramatically changed after testing his mettle against fighters of the highest calibre.
So, how have things got to this stage, and what lies ahead for the future of the 28-year-old?
His dominant start
The 5ft 5” native of Negros Occidental made an astonishing start to his career as he outclassed his first 27 opponents made up mostly of Asian fighters. These victories highlighted the punching power of ‘King Arthur’, albeit against some questionable opponents.
In his ‘perfect-record’ days, he made appearances on two overseas fight cards (Japan and UAE) showing his willingness to travel, and through training at the ALA boxing gym in Cebu, his reputation for training at one of the top talent-honing dens of Filipino pugilists has defined him.
From his displays against entry-level foes when his career was on the launch, he is an easy pick as one of ALA’s most sort after fighters.
Secondly, his rise was timed perfectly as Filipino fight fans were in search of new household names who might bear the load that Manny Pacquiao used to carry when his country’s pride was at stake inside the ring.
The real test
Villanueva’s excellent start earned him a shot at the vacant IBF super flyweight title against McJoe Arroyo of Puerto Rico in his first US stint. For the first time in his career, Villanueva faced a real battle, with both men displaying excellent performances in the power-punch filled bout. The ringside doctor, however, was forced to protect the Filipino after suffering a deep cut to his right eyebrow after an accidental headbutt in the tenth round. The fight was stopped, with the belt being awarded to Arroyo via technical decision after the judges’ scorecard confirmed the fate of the Villanueva loss.
‘King Arthur’ then redeemed himself from this loss by registering a three-win streak, before taking another defeat via unanimous decision in an interim WBO bantamweight title fight against Zolani Tete.
In his most recent fight against Luis Nery in Tijuana, Mexico, although Villanueva scored a knockdown against Nery, he suffered a TKO loss in the sixth round. Nery improved to 25-0 after the win.
End of the road?
At 28-years-old, Villanueva is at an age when most fighters are at the peak of their game. In his fight against Nery, his aggression had clearly faded. He looked strong at the beginning of the bout, but the fight tempo changed when Nery gave him a taste of his punches late in the first round, proving to be the turning point of the fight. Villanueva wasn’t able to negate Nery’s intensity as the Mexican continued to out-punch him in the second and third round.
Villanueva then scored a knockdown in the fourth after they traded with a barrage of punches making Nery lose his footing, but Villanueva proved to be the more shaken after the exchange.
Looking at his losses, Villanueva needs to go back to the drawing board or else he may suffer the same fate as AJ Banal and Rey Bautista who used fight under Oscar Dela Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions; failing to win a world title and falling easily against more formidable opponents. Nery exposed problems with Villanueva’s ability to take hard punches, with this needing to be addressed moving forward.
With his market value dropping, the temptation of taking fights where Villanueva enters the ring as the underdog will no doubt be one to consider.
Perhaps, he should take a look at the likes of Orlando Salido (44-13-4) who despite his damaged record tried to keep on fighting even though he reached a point where he was labelled as a washed-up, mediocre, old fighter who could give a good tune-up fight to those who accept. Salido now boasts a pair of knockout wins against the once invincible Puerto Rican knockout artist Juan Manuel Lopez as well as an epic split decision victory against pound-for-pound challenger Vasyl Lomachenko.
However, if Villanueva does continue to aim for a world title, he’ll need to seclude himself for now, doing a lot of homework to make the required adjustments to his game.
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