The bout in question pitted teenager Riku Kano (10-1-1, 5) again former WBO Minimumweight world champion Merlito Sabillo (25-3-1, 12) with both men knowing it was a bout they simply couldn't afford to lose.
Early on it seemed that Sabillo got the memo on what he had to do to win, and he used his experience to find homes for both his straight left hand and his right hook. Those shots were the key for Sabillo who appeared to take the first two rounds before Kano began to warm up with rounds 3 and 4 being much more competitive.
After 4 rounds the open scoring came in to play for the first time and two judges, reasonably, had the bout a shut out for Sabillo with scores of 40-36 in favour of the Filipino. The dissenting judge, rather inexplicably, had Kano up 39-37, a score that really didn't reflect the action.
Following the first round of open scoring it seemed like Sabillo picked up the pace, but he was answered back by a determined Kano who he found his jab landing with regular success, and his straight left to the body of Sabillo was taking it's toll on the visitor. The middle rounds had resulted in the scoring changing significantly with with one judge having Sabillo up 77-74 whilst the other two had Kano up 77-75, putting the Japanese youngster in the lead going into the final 4 rounds.
Going in to the final 4 rounds both men were starting to show their tiredness, and the ring was becoming slippery causing some problems for both men. Unfortunately for Sabillo that helped Kano who began to pick his shots better through rounds 9, 10 and 11. In the final round a frustrated Sabillo came out looking for a big round but Kano's speed and footwork ended up making Sabillo look silly as he swung and hit air, time and time again.
At the end of 12 rounds the judges had the bout 117-111, twice, for Kano whilst the third judge had Sabillo winning 115-113. The result was a fair one, and was a big step up for Kano who will now turn his attention to a world title fight later in the year. On this performance however he will need to improve drastically if he's to beat any current world champion. Saying that though the WBO title is vacant and we wouldn't be shocked by Kano going that route, , especially given that he has just beaten a man ranked very highly by the WBO before the fight.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)