March 20, 2023

It was a bittersweet moment for Ifugao boxer KJ Natuplag when he lost his first title defense for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) Oriental featherwieght belt to China’s Liu Wensong on Feb. 4 at the VIC Sports Complex in Dubai.

Both fighters stood confidently on their ground trading punches in the first round.

ENGAGED — Ifugao boxing pride KJ Natuplag failed to defend the World Boxing Organization Oriental featherweight belt from a Chinese challenger, but he won the heart of his fiancée, Jade Kelly Custodio, who was at the ringside during the bout at the VIC Sports Complex in Dubai on Feb. 14. — KJN Facebook photo

The bout quickly escalated with the boxers equally trading heavy punches raising excitement from the crowd.

But Wensong surprised Natuplag with a left cross on his chin, followed by right and left powerful punches that were left unanswered and sent the Ifugao fighter on the mat.  

Natuplag w as given a chance to compose himself by the referee, but once again went down after a quick exchange, still reeling from the first attack.

The referee was forced to stop the fight, signaling the 24-year-old Chinese fighter’s win.

Natuplag’s camp is considering a rematch, stating the latter’s surprise of Wensong’s punch.

The 26-year-old Natuplag, who is now based in Dubai, dropped to 11 wins with 10 by way of knockout, four losses, and two draws while Wensong improved to 9-1-1. 

“Sorry everyone, I’ll come back stronger,” Natuplag said in his Facebook post after the bout. 

The Filipino fight fans’ mood quickly turned around when Natuplag, after recovering from his fight, got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend, Jade Kelly Custodio.

Custodio, who also hails from Ifugao and works as a nurse in Dubai, happily said yes to the boxer’s marriage proposal followed by the fight crowd’s applause of delight.

The orthodox fighter earlier won against Boonrueang Phayom of Thailand in the second round for the vacant WBO Oriental title on Nov. 12, 2022 in Dubai.

He also won the WBC Asian Boxing Council featherweight by knocking Attanon Kunlawong of Thailand on June 24, 2022, also in Dubai. – Ofelia C. Empian