As the first of Team Lakay taking to the cage at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY in Manila, Philippines, Gina “Conviction” Iniong had plenty of expectations on her shoulders. Fellow Filipina Natalie “The Kilapino” Gonzales Hills was on a four-fight losing streak and was focused on getting back on track, but it was never going to be easy.
The story of the fight was Iniong’s powerful counter-punching, that allowed her to pummel her way to a unanimous decision victory in the Mall Of Asia Arena on Friday Night, 21 April, with a special mention going to Hills’ chin, which was able to see her through the three rounds.
Iniong opened the contest with the powerful kicks she is renowned for. Hills was unfazed and pressed forward, but she gave away her space and allowed the Team Lakay fighter to press her to the fence. “The Kilipino” was scrappy and durable in defense, staving off takedowns well and scrambling right back up when her defense lapsed.
Much could be said of her resistance and ability to stay on her feet, but it was Iniong who controlled the action and took the initiative. A hard right floored Hills, and put an exclamation mark on a good round for the woman known as “Conviction.”
After having some success with the right hand in the first stanza, Iniong found a home for it again and again in the second round. More importantly, Hills could not find an answer. She tried repeatedly to enter her range to land straights and kicks, but every time she did, she was punished by a thudding overhand from Iniong. Her tenacity kept her in the running, but with no Plan B, it was starting to look like a big ask for the Sydney, Australia, resident.
It is always telling how a fighter reacts after being thoroughly dominated in a round, and Hills posted her best five minutes of the fight in the last stanza. Her corner must have dispensed some good advice, as she moved more fluidly and exited out of the range of Iniong’s counter attacks much more often.
Offensively, she still was not having much success, with the round’s highlight being a perfectly executed hip-throw for Iniong, en route to taking the unanimous nod from the judges.
Iniong put in a great fifteen minutes, although undoubtedly she would have liked the highlight-reel finish with her weapon of choice — a devastating overhand right. Despite that, “Conviction” moves to 5-2, and looks to be an excellent prospect in the atomweight division, and perhaps a title contender in the future.
Hills showed that, despite her record, she is not out of her depth with high level fighters in her division. Nevertheless, her return to winning ways was not to be this time, and she drops to 1-5. Her heart and desire could not be faulted at any point.