Life's a blast on the road
Halifax boxer Cave gets royal treatment in Cebu
(Source: Monty Mosher / The Chronicale Herald)

The Prince of Hali may be the next king of the Philippines.

The flashy and outspoken Halifax boxer Tyson Cave is a smash hit in Cebu City, where he will take on home favourite A.J. Banal for the World Boxing Organizations Asia Pacific bantamweight title Saturday. The fight, in a new 8,000-seat basketball venue, is scheduled for 12 rounds.

The 29-year-old Cave, 15-1 with five knockouts, went to the Philippines expecting to be a pariah against Banal, 24-1-1 with 19 KOs.

But the Cave camp has been treated like royalty in the boxing-crazed country. Local reporters are lapping up every word Cave says, and he and his small entourage spent part of Wednesday touring the city with the mayor.

"Tyson is a phenomenon here," Robert Cave, his father and manager, said in a telephone interview. "Forty per cent of the people here are cheering for Tyson. I cant believe it. Hes the Prince of Cebu."

Tyson Cave, always available to the media and fans, has been mobbed in the streets, while the more celebrated Banal, ranked fifth overall by the WBO, is viewed as aloof in some quarters.

There is also some lingering resentment toward Banal in the Philippines after he didnt rally from a knockdown in his only career loss, to Rafael Concepcion of Panama in 2008.

Cave has had to make accommodations because of his new-found celebrity. Hes been training at 5 a.m. to keep the crowds away from workouts, and even at that, hes had fans watching his every move.

Robert Cave said his son arrived in the lobby of their hotel at 6 a.m. earlier this week and several dozen fans were looking for photos and autographs.

Tyson trained one day this week at a mall and several hundred fans attended. The Cave camp went on to an arena for a training session and it was standing-room only.

"Boxing is just so great here," Robert Cave said. "Banal doesnt mingle with the crowds. Tyson is out there with the kids."

"Tyson just thrives on this stuff," said trainer Bunny Phillips. "Hes just eating it up. Its fuelled his fire. Hes motivated. There are a lot of people here who want to see Banal get beat. He quit. He dogged it in that (Concepcion) fight and they never forgot."

There is already talk of a Banal-Concepcion rematch, which has Tyson Cave believing Banal is already looking past their fight.

"He should worry about me, not Concepcion," Cave told the boxing writers at a media conference this week. "Ill beat Concepcion after I beat Banal."

Cave holds the WBC Continental Americas super bantamweight title, the Canadian super bantamweight crown and the Canadian-American-Mexican super bantamweight belt, but this will be just his second fight outside the Maritimes. Even in Halifax, the five-time Canadian amateur champion has a modest following and as many detractors as admirers.

In the Philippines, he has lived up to his reputation for making a big noise. Believing his bravado could be a weapon against the 22-year-old Banal, hes been taunting his fellow southpaw at every turn.

"I make people cry in the ring," he said at the media conference.

His bluster is an act. Hes on a business junket, believing his ring savvy can frustrate and enrage the heavy-punching Banal and create an opening for the biggest win of his career.

Cave said he didnt expect the reaction hes received in the Philippines.

"Theyve embraced me, they love me," he said. "Everyone knows who I am and they are excited to see me. But Im not really thinking about that. Im focused on winning over the crowd and having a good fight and coming home with another belt. Thats pretty much it."

Cave has to come down from his customary 122 pounds to 118 for the fight. He said he was at 120 earlier in the week and will have no trouble with the last two pounds.

"Were right on schedule," Phillips said. "The weights good, the trainings good."

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