One man who has recently gone from being an unknown to a fan favourite in the Philippines is Merlito Sabillo (23-0, 12). Less than a year ago Sabillo was a complete unknown who's most notable result had been a stoppage of Jonathan Refugio for the OPBF Minimumweight title. Now however he is the WBO world champion at 105lbs and a man hunting his second defense of that crown.
Sabillo, unlikely many, had to do things the hard way. He had to travel away from home to take the WBO "interim" title with a victory over Luis De La Rosa over in front of a hostile crowd in Colombia.
Since claiming the title Sabillo has defended it once stopping Jorle Estrada in what was Sabillo's first ever fight in Metro Manila, a place that he returns to this coming Saturday as he battles fellow unbeaten Carlos Buitrago (27-0-0-1, 16).
For years Buitrago has been viewed as the spiritual successor to Roman Gonzalez as Nicaragua's new wonder kid. He has been sparring with top fighters for years and looked every bit of a future world champion. Aged 21 however he is still a baby in terms of boxing and although he has 28 fights on his ledger he has yet to fight in Asia and is also yet to face a world level opponent, two things he will be experiencing for the first time here.
From watching Buitrago he's always appeared to be a very talented young man. He lacks the destructiveness of Gonzalez he has got stinging power that can really shake fighters when he lands cleanly. We're not sure how that will carry up to the world stage but it's certainly something that he'll believe in. What impresses us so much about Buitrago is actually his understanding inside the ring. He uses the jab excellently, moves well, controls the distance well and has a very varied arsenal.
Not only is Buitrago's attack varied but it also looks very fluid. His jab coming forward is excellent, his counter left hook is sharp, his uppercuts are snappy and his straight looks like it could be very potent.
Although we're big fans of Buitrago, as we are of any talented fighter, we do think this fight is too early for him as Sabillo is a man who really impresses us.
The Filipino champion has proven to be tough, talented and a fighter who is becoming more and more confident in his own power. This self belief has seen Sabillo stopping his last 5 opponent after stopping just 7 of his first 18 foes. The best part of Sabillo's stoppages however has been the fact they've been so varied. He stopped De La Rosa with shots upstairs before taking out Estrada with a vicious body shot.
Going in to this bout it's the body shots of Sabillo that we think will be the telling shots. Sure the Filipino southpaw will take a fair few shots from Buitrago as he tries to land them but when he manages to connect with them it'll seem like a man against a boy with Buitrago slowly coming undone in the second half of the fight.
Thankfully, for those who remember watching Sabillo's fight with Estrada, this should genuine be a much more enjoyable contest than Sabillo's first defense which was unexciting to say the least due to the negativity of the challenger who didn't seem to have any self belief. With Buitrago bringing an unbeaten record with him he won't be looking to just roll over and as a result this should be a genuinely entertaining scrap and one of the genuine highlights of "Pinoy Pride XXIII"