Jason Pagara faces make-or-break test against unbeaten Hiroki Okada

Ryan Songalia

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Jason Pagara faces make-or-break test against unbeaten Hiroki Okada
Pagara will try to get back into contention after his disappointing draw against James Onyango in September

MANILA, Philippines – After falling out of junior welterweight contention, Jason Pagara will try to jump back into the rankings when he faces undefeated Japanese fighter Hiroki Okada on December 19 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan.

At age 25, the older Pagara brother is in a make-or-break situation following his dismal draw with late-replacement James Onyango on September 16 in Cebu City, when he was beaten around the ring in the latter rounds following a hot start.

It was his first fight in 10 months, a period of activity his promoter Michael Aldeguer of ALA Promotions says was due to him being “always out of shape.” During that period, the former number one contender for the WBO junior welterweight title slipped down the rankings, and was removed from the top 15 in the sanctioning body’s October 2017 rankings.

Aldeguer previously told Rappler that there had been interest from Las Vegas-based promoter Top Rank to bring Pagara to the United States.

Pagara (40-2-1, 25 knockouts) will try to make up lost ground against the 27-year-old Okada (16-0, 11 KOs), in what will be the toughest test yet in Pagara’s so-far carefully managed career, with the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title will be at stake.

Jason knows what he has lost; he has not been in shape for a year and he has lost his focus,” Aldeguer tells Rappler.

“We have a lot of fighters who deserve it more and he has to work his way back not just in the world ranking but as one of the fighters to be taken seriously in world level.”

Okada is ranked number 7 by the WBO, and is coming off back-to-back wins this year over Filipino boxers Rodel Wenceslao and Jheritz Chavez. All of Okada’s fights since turning pro in 2011 have taken place at Korakuen Hall.

Pagara’s expulsion from the rankings comes at an inopportune time, as long-time champion Terence Crawford is moving up to 147 pounds to chase the WBO welterweight title currently held by Jeff Horn. Pagara had previously been in position to fight for the 140-pound belt once Crawford vacated, but now finds himself on the outside looking in on the title picture.

Trainer Edito Villamor says Pagara rested for one week after the Onyango fight before returning to the gym, and expects Pagara to be in better shape for this fight the week before Christmas.

He learned his lesson in a hard way,” says Villamor.

“This should be a huge test for him if he still has what it takes to be a world champion. It’s a division that he can’t play around with,” said Aldeguer. – Rappler.com

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