Despite being “excited” that he was chosen to face former featherweight titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa on the Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez IV undercard, Filipino junior lightweight contender Michael Farenas isn’t abandoning his usual humility.
“Bilog ang bola,” or “The ball is round,” said Farenas (34-3-4, 26 knockouts) in response to the possiblity of pull off the upset on Dec. 8 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
For those not familiar with Filipino idioms, the phrase means that anything can happen. It’s a phrase that belies Farenas’ new-found confidence.
A native of Gubat, Sorsogon in the Philippines, Farenas will fight the Cuban dynamo with a 21-0 (16 KOs) record in a bout that could position either for a shot at a 130-pound belt with a victory.
Gamboa defected from his native Cuba after winning the flyweight gold medal at the 2004 Olympics. As a professional, Gamboa has won the WBA and IBF featherweight titles, but hasn’t fought since earning a technical decision over former titleholder Daniel Ponce de Leon 14 months ago.
Gamboa is now promoted by SMS Promotions, which is headed by rapper Curtis Jackson, better known as 50 Cent.
“He’s good, he has strength, but I’m going to do everything I know about boxing to win,” said Farenas, who is unbeaten (7-0-1, 2 KOs) in his last eight bouts. “I’m going to give him a good fight.”
The southpaw Farenas has been training alongside Pacquiao at the Wild Card Gym, preparing for his second opportunity at the top level.
In Farenas’ last bout in July, he gave WBA junior lightweight titleholder and RING rated no. 1 contender Takashi Uchiyama all he could handle for three rounds before a headbutt-induced cut resulted in a technical draw.
Farenas’ promoter and former two-time world title challenger Gerry Penalosa, whose noteworthy, seventh-round knockout upset Jhonny Gonzalez for the WBO bantamweight title in 2007, thinks the 28-year-old is capable of shocking the world.
“They made a mistake in choosing Farenas,” said Penalosa. “[Gamboa] is a complete fighter, except for his ‘made in China’ chin. I hope at 130 he has the same movement as 126. If he becomes slow as compared to 126, it’s an advantage to Farenas. Michael can hit him, Michael can punch, and that’ll be the end of the road.”
Penalosa says he has seen great improvement in Farenas’ confidence since his title opportunity, and that it has translated to an improvement in his training.
Penalosa says he saw Farenas stop a Russian sparring partner last week and that he did well with some Mexican boxers on Monday.
“Farenas is more hungrier compared to me when I fought Jhonny Gonzalez. When I fought Jhonny Gonzalez, I was an ex-champion,” said Penalosa.
“Farenas, he’s never been a champion. I’m sure he’s hungrier compared to me. I’m sure with that attitude as a hungry fighter, it’s so hard to fight a guy like that.”
Translations by Adrian Dy
Photo by Michael Quidilla
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel and can be reached at email@example.com. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.