Bernabe Concepcion Guns for World Title Saturday

This Saturday in Las Vegas, Nevada, Filipinos all over the world will again witness another round of exciting boxing matches featuring two of its home-grown fighters, but they don’t include the name of the country’s “national hero,” Manny Pacquiao.

But no doubt Pacquiao has had a big influence on Nonito Donaire and Bernabe Concepcion, who are also trying to make it big in the world of boxing. So far, Donaire has been more than just a struggling pugilist, especially after knocking out previously unbeaten Vic Darchinyan, who boxing aficionados thought was invincible for knocking out opponents 23 times out of only 27 fights, back in July 2007.

Donaire, already a celebrated boxer, is the featured fighter against Panamian Rafael Concepcion for the interim World Boxing Association Super Flyweight Title at the Hard Rock Café in Las Vegas on Aug. 15. That fight will take place after the match between World Boxing Organization Featherweight Title holder and Los Angeles native Steven Luevano and Philippines’ Bernabe Concepcion, who will be gunning for his first shot at a world title.

Bernabe Concepcion, 21, (no relation to that Panamian Rafael Concepcion) hails from the island of Virac, Catanduanes in the Bicol Region, located at the eastern side of the Philippines facing Pacific Ocean and recipient of perennial typhoons. This is where Serafin Concepcion and wife, Corazon, raised nine children and maybe the home of the next boxing great in their eighth child, Bernabe.

Growing up as a boxer became natural for Bernabe, who at 16, was already a professional boxer. This is because three of his older brothers were also boxers, one of whom – Dondon Concepcion, now 30 – was a former WBO Inter-Continental Bantamweight Title holder in 1997. The two others are Benjie, 28, and Bobby, 19. Except for Bobby, all are no longer active in boxing, but have been an inspiration to their younger brother Bernabe.

Luevano may be an international figure, but in his fight against Mario Santiago last year, he wasn’t impressive at all and was even knocked down in the early rounds of the fight. The southpaw, however, retained his title after settling for a draw with Santiago, who by the way, felt that he was robbed of the victory after 12 grueling rounds.

As for Bernabe, who at 5-foot-4 is three inches shorter than Luevano, he won by a unanimous decision over an unknown Yogli Herrera last May 2 in a Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton undercard fight. It would’ve been his first meeting with Luevano, but an injury to the Angeleno prevented that from happening until this coming Saturday when the two – Bernabe and Luevano – will tangle in the so-called “Pinoy Power2” meeting.

For those who have yet to see Bernabe, he has a wide and a seemingly very strong body. He has a jumping footwork that has been attributed as key to his recent successes, complemented by short strong right hooks and right upper cuts. Luevano, meantime, is a “point-system” fighter, who chooses to go in, land a jab or a left cross in the process, and immediately goes out.

Bernabe gave BALITA MEDIA a glimpse of him at The Palazzo, a luxurious apartment in West Los Angeles owned by Pacquiao, where Bernabe has been staying. Jogging 5-6 miles every other day, Bernabe visits the Wildcard Gym in Hollywood every day and trains with Freddie Roach, the same coach that made Pacquiao today’s pound-for-pound best fighter. At the gym, Bernabe shadow boxes, uses his punch mitts and spars 8-10 rounds with choice opponents, who may have the same style and physique as Luevano’s. Bernabe said he is still in the middle of conditioning his body and is still eight pounds over the 126-pound featherweight limit.

Bernabe revealed that he might go for Luevano’s body, using his hopping skill to land his short stabbing punches that became his signature in knocking three, if not four, of his last opponents prior to beating Herrera. One fight had to be stopped in those last four fights because blood was dripping all over Sande Otieno’s face after a severe cut he suffered in the right eye at the hands of Bernabe.

In his 29 professional fights, Bernabe has only lost once. He has so far knocked out 16 (17, according to Bernabe as he considers the Otieno’s fight a TKO). His only loss interestingly enough was against another southpaw, Mark Sales, who won a majority decision over him. But that loss was way back in March 2005. Bernabe has since won over three other southpaws, all in knockout fashions.

Bernabe told BALITA MEDIA that he will also be running after Luevano and coax him to meet him head on, which of course, did not work out for Luevano when he faced Santiago in a slugfest that almost cost Luevano the title.

In his Saturday fight, which will be his biggest yet in his young career, Bernabe didn’t predict a victory. But he told BALITA MEDIA that if he wins, “I will win by a knockout.”

Written by RHONY LAIGO