Twelve years after he won his only world title, Malcolm Tunacao earned a second shot by stopping Christian Esquivel in Round 7 of a WBC bantamweight title elimination bout at Central Gym in Kobe, Japan, last night. The end came at the 2:10 mark, after the southpaw Tunacao (32-2-3, 20 knockouts) dropped Mexico’s Esquivel (25-4, 19 KOs) with a right hook.
Tunacao, who is a native of Mandaue City, Philippines, but has been based in Kobe for the last three years, is now the mandatory challenger for WBC titleholder Shinsuke Yamanaka (17-0-2, 12 KOs) of Tokyo. Yamanaka, 30, is rated No. 2 by THE RING at bantamweight, while Tunacao, 35, is rated No. 6.
Yamanaka won the title with an eleventh round knockout of Esquivel last November and has since defended it twice.
Tunacao had a brief run as WBC flyweight titleholder when he knocked out Medgoen Singsurat in 2000, avenging countryman Manny Pacquiao’s knockout loss to Singsurat the year earlier. Tunacao lost the title in his second defense when he was knocked out in the first round by future Hall of Famer Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. Despite having lost just once in his last 23 bouts, Tunacao has yet to receive a second world title opportunity.
Tunacao will celebrate the victory back home in the Philippine province of Cebu with his two sons, Dave, 13, and Malcolm Jr., 11, and 16-year-old daughter Sharalyn, whom he hasn’t seen in a year. Tunacao will be in the Philippines from December 31 to January 30 before returning to Japan for training camp.
Also on the card, former WBC bantamweight and featherweight titleholder Hozumi Hasegawa (31-4, 13 KOs) of Kobe continued to rehabilitate his career with a unanimous decision victory over Arturo Santos Reyes (12-3, 4 KOs) of Nogales, Mexico, in a junior featherweight bout. The scores were 98-93, 98-94 and 97-95.
Hasegawa, 31, has won two straight since being knocked out by Jhonny Gonzalez in April 2011.
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.