Phenom Sonsona lives up to billing

Dave Pollard, SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 11:09 PM ET

RAMA, Ont. -- Many boxing observers are calling Filipino teen Marvin Sonsona the next Manny Pacquiao.

But Friday night at Casino Rama, Sonsona did one better than Pacquiao, considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world by Ring Magazine.

Sonsona turned in an exciting and impressive performance in posting a 12-round unanimous decision over Jose (Carita) Lopez of Puerto Rico to win the WBO junior bantamweight world championship in the Rumble at Rama IX main event.

By beating the highly-seasoned Lopez (39-8-2), 19-year-old Sonsona became the second-youngest Filipino world champion ever. Pacquiao was a few months older when he won his first world title while Morris East holds the distinction of being the youngest.

Sonsona, now 14-0 with 12 knockouts, showed why he’s considered a boxing phenom with a sparkling showing against the 37-year-old Lopez.

With the vocal backing of a large contingent of Filipino-Canadians urging him on, Sonsona dominated Lopez for most of the fight despite being hurt by repeated low blows during the middle rounds. The Filipino southpaw knocked Lopez down with a hard left hand in the fourth round but couldn’t finish off the Puerto Rican slugger.

“I was thinking that was the end,” Sonsona said of the knockdown.

Lopez, who was riding an eight-year winning streak and hadn’t been knocked out in his previous seven losses, seemed to re-energize himself after stumbling to his feet, smacking himself in the forehead in a personal wakeup call. He was never in serious trouble after that but Sonsona kept picking away and continued to win rounds.

Sonsona survived a sluggish eighth and ninth -- low blows may have played a role; Lopez was penalized two points in the eighth for intentionallyhitting Sonsona below the belt -- before bouncing back and finishing strong. It was the first time in his career that Sonsona had gone beyond five rounds.

“Yes, Lopez hurt me,” Sonsona admitted. “He’s a very good fighter. (The low blows) hurt but I wanted to go on. I really lost some strength in the eighth and ninth but in the 10th I regained it and wanted to go for the knockout.”

Co-promoter Allan Tremblay wasn’t far off when he predicted the Sonsona-Lopez bout could end up being a fight of the year candidate. It could very well have been the best main event since Tremplay’s Orion Sports Management started the Rumble at Rama series.

“We’ve have to regroup as a team, do what’s best for Marvin,” Tremblay said when asked what the immediate future held for Sonsona. “Everybody is excited now so it would be best to keep it going.”

Tremblay indicated that the next Rumble, possibly featuring Sonsona and Canadian junior featherweight Steve Molitor fighting in co-main events, could be held Nov. 21 at Casino Rama.

Molitor (30-1, 12 knockouts) continued on the comeback trail by stopping Paraguayan Dario Azuaga (76-16-2) in the fifth round. It was just Molitor’s second fight since losing his IBF junior featherweight world title to Celestino Caballero and his first KO win in over a year.

“We got our groove back, our rhythm back inside the ring,” Molitor said. “(The goal) was to go in there and be relaxed. We wanted to fight on the inside, be aggressive.”

Molitor knocked down Azuaga, a late replacement for Argentinian Sergio Javier Escobar, with a straight left hand in the fourth round then put him down with a hard left to the body in the fifth. The end came 1:50 into the fifth when Molitor floored Azuaga a third time, prompting his corner to throw in the towel.

It was the first fight for Molitor since reuniting with trainer Chris Johnson, who was in his corner when the Canadian won the world championship and four successful title defences.

“I was pretty impressed with his performance,” Johnson said. “Steve always starts slow but then he starts to get the confidence and find the touch with the jab.”

Despite the explosive finish to the Molitor fight, Sonsona’s performance is what had the crowd buzzing and Tremblay grinning like a proud poppa.

“I’m always worried,” Tremblay said. “If you sit where I do, there’s a lot on the line from a business point of view. But I (also) get emotionally attached. It’s almost like a son in there.”

Afterwards, Sonsona’s team indicated that Philippine president Gloria Macapagel-Arroyo had called to find out the result of the fight first-hand, sparking a celebration on the other end of the line when she was told.

The mention of Macapagel-Arroyo prompted a member of the Filipino media to ask Sonsona if he intended to follow Pacquiao’s post-championship career path. Pacquiao has dabbled in acting, singing and politics but Sonsona wants to stay focused on fighting.

“I just want to be a boxer,” Sonsona said, smiling and looking every bit the teenager he is.


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