Mike Plania might have expected to get a big fight opportunity shortly after his upset win over Joshua Greer Jr. in June of 2020. Instead, that “Bubble” era majority decision win over the WBO’s no. 1 rated bantamweight was followed by a ten month ring absence and two wins over nondescript opponents due to visa renewals and fight cancellations.
Plania finds himself back in a significant fight on Sunday as he faces unbeaten contender Ra’eese Aleem at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. The ten-round junior featherweight fight will headline an FS1 broadcast, which precedes the Andy Ruiz Jr. vs. Luis Ortiz Fox pay-per-view.
Plania (26-1, 13 knockouts) says the wait has only made him a hungrier fighter.
“There’s no disappointment for me because this is boxing…we need to be patient,” said the 25-year-old Plania of General Santos City, Philippines. “Now this is my time.”
The bout will pit Plania, The Ring’s no. 10 rated junior featherweight, against the 32-year-old Aleem (19-0, 12 KOs), who is rated no. 4 by The Ring. Plania says the Michigan native Aleem presents a difficult challenge, but insists he’s up to the task.
“[Aleem] is a tough fight, he is good but I’m excited to fight him,” said Plania, who last fought in November of 2021, stopping undersized Ricardo Nunez in one round. “It’s no problem to me what style he does in the ring, I’m ready.”
Plania, who is promoted by Sanman Promotions, has won eleven straight since his sole defeat, a ten round unanimous decision to former titleholder Juan Carlos Payano in 2018. He is now based in Miami, Fla., where he trains under Osmiri “Moro” Fernandez.
The Las Vegas-based Aleem has been building towards a title opportunity of his own. Aleem has won three straight fights on Premier Boxing Champions cards, beating opponents with a cumulative record of 47-2-3 as he rose up the rankings.
The winner would put himself in enviable position to maneuver for a title opportunity in a division where Stephen Fulton holds the WBC and WBO titles, Murodjon Akhmadaliev holds the IBF and WBA titles, and former unified titleholder Daniel Roman recently retired.
“This is my chance to show everyone that I am the next contender to face Stephen Fulton Jr. for his world titles. I believe our paths will cross, but I have to get through an extremely tough opponent first,” said Aleem at Friday’s press conference.
A win for Plania would give Filipino boxing fans a reason to rejoice, as the country struggles to fill the void left behind by the retirement of Manny Pacquiao and the decline of future Hall of Fame Nonito Donaire Jr.
That fact gives Plania something extra to fight for.
“I have a strong game plan and we’re going to use it to bring a victory home for the Philippines,” said Plania.