We had no real controversy this past Saturday when Filipino fighter Merlito Sabillo (23-1-1, 12) had his WBO Minimumweight ripped from him by talented and hard hitting Mexican Francisco Rodriguez Jr (14-2, 10).
Sabillo, who won the title last year in Colombia, was widely expected to know too much and be too good for the Mexican challenger. Instead we found out that the Mexican was too big, too strong, too powerful and too aggressive for the usually tough Filipino.
The Mexican's power and strength were clear from the opening round and by the end of round 2 Sabillo had already been knocked down and wrestled down. It was clear that Sabillo would be forced to dig deep just to survive never mind win.
Having gotten off to a perfect start Rodriguez seemed to quickly grow in confidence and kept up an intense pressure, non stop offensive work and a vicious body attack. Sabillo, to his credit, tried to answer back but it was simply too much, Rodriguez wasn't going to be denied no matter what Sabillo did and round after round you could see Sabillo wilting having his resistance chipped away at.
Sabillo's fate was effectively sealed in round 4, his best round. The Filipino managed to land some solid shots that seemed to just bounce off the challenger. It was as if Rodriguez was saying "you can hit me, but you can't hurt me" and if Sabillo still had any belief in himself it then vanished.
No matter what Sabillo did the challenger just kept coming with wave after wave of attacks, he was hell bent on stopping the Filipino and in rounds 8 and 9 things were beginning to get painful to watch. Sabillo was beginning to get genuinely battered and it looked like it was going to continue to the end of the fight. Thankfully though Sabillo's trainer seemed to know that his man was done and mid way through round 10 he signalled to referee Eddie Claudio to finish the contest, saving Sabillo before too much damage was done physically.
With this loss the Philippines are left with just 2 world champions, Donnie Nietes and Johnriel Casimero but of who now have the hopes of the Philippines on their shoulder with their up coming title defenses.
(Photo courtesy of Zanfer promociones)