In the Philippines earlier today fight fans had a battle of former world champions, as former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (19-3-2, 12) [木村翔] battled former WBO Minimumweight champion Merlito Sabillo (27-8-1, 13) in a bout for ABF Flyweight title.
On paper this looked a lot of fun. Both guys have aggressive styles, and they could easy have a tear up with pretty much anyone, and keep us interested.
In the first round Kimura hunted Sabillo, applying pressure and looking to see what Sabillo had to offer. It was relatively quiet from the Filipino, but Sabillo did come alive in round 2, and began to let his shots go. He was aggressive and even forced Kimura to back up at times, as the bout really came alive.
Sadly though all hope of something special ended in round, after what had been a really fun start to the bout, when Sabillo took a huger, counter left hook. The shot was clean but wasn't a knockout punch. Sadly Sabillo's right knee seemed to collapse on it's self when the shot landed.
With Sabillo in clear agony, on the canvas, the referee waved off the bout. It was a freak injury, but it had been caused, at least partly by the left hook of Kimura.
For Kimura this was his return to the ring following an ill fated decision to move to Light Flyweight and challenger Carlos Canizales for the WBA "regular" title. He's now back at Flyweight and in reality this is the division that seems to suit him. Fingers crossed he gets back in the world title mix here, with fights against guys like Angel Acosta, Giemel Magramo, Junto Nakatani, Moruti Mthalane, Artem Dalakian and Julio Cesar Martinez all looking like they could be amazing contests.
As for Sabillo it's hard to know what's next. He's lost 4 in a row and at the age of 36 he's certainly an old guy for the lower weights. If the injury is as severe as it looked he could be out for a year regardless, and from there it's really impossible to know whether he will return to the ring, never mind have any sort of success in the sport.
Over the last few weeks a rumour has swirled around regarding a fight between former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (18-3-2, 11) [木村翔] and former WBO Minimumweight champion Merlito Sabillo (27-7-1, 13). Today that fight was officially announced by Kimura at a press conference, who also confirmed then when and where of the contest.
The clash between former world champions will take place on February 15th in the Philippines, at the Manila Arena.
For Kimura this will be his first bout since losing to Carlos Canizales back in May, in a WBA Light Flyweight title bout held in Fuzhou. It felt like Kimura's usual energy and relentlessness were lacking, and that was maybe due to making the 108lbs limit rather than fighting in the more comfortable Flyweight divisions, which he he had been fighting at since late 2016.
As for Sabillo the 35 year old Filipino will be looking to avoid a 4th straight loss, and comes into the bout having been inactive since an April 2019 loss in Mexico to upcoming world title challenger Daniel Valladares. He desperately needs a win to keep his career alive, however he is a very long way removed from his world world title reign of 2013 and it's unclear how much longer he will be able to continue trading on his name alone.
Despite today's announcement form Kimura there is is still a lot of questions regarding the bout. Firstly the rounds and weight weren't confirmed. More notably however it's still unclear whether Kimura will be fighting under the new DANGAN Aoki gym license, would be fighting freelance, so without a Japanese gym, or will look to transfer to another gym. We suspect he'll be with the DANGAN Aoki gym, which officially opens tomorrow, but nothing was confirmed.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Back in September news broke that the historic Aoki gym, was going to be closed before the start of 2020. That actually happened yesterday, December 26th, with Aoki announcing on social media that their doors were closing.
Of course this is boxing, and nothing is as straight forward as it seems and the gym is less "closing down" and more "transferring", if you will.
Rather than permanently closing it doors, like the legendary Yonekura gym, the Aoki gym will instead re-open in the new year as DANGAN Aoki on January 6th, keeping not only the Aoki fighters but also the Dangan ones.
From what we understand it seems like the current reason Taiki gym could be closed, and everyone could end up under the new DANGAN Aoki banner, with the gym regarded as a better gym overall for things like training. However this wasn't confirmed at the time.
This leads us to believe that the now rumoured bout between former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (18-3-2, 11) [木村翔] and former WBO Minimumweight champion Merlito Sabillo (27-7-1, 13) would be taking place with Kimura fighting out of the new DANGAN Aoki gym. It would also likely continue to promote Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21) [渡邉卓也], ahead of his Japanese Super Featherweight title fight with Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) [坂晃典] at the 2020 Champion Carnival.
Former WBO Minimumweight champion Merlito Sabillo (27-5-1, 13) has fallen hard in recent years, dropping from an unbeaten world champion with a 23-0 (12) record. It now seems like he really is fighting for his career at the age of 34
The Filipino may well be about to enter the last chance Saloon, with the recent announcement that he will be back in the ring on September 15th in Qinzhou, China. The forrmer champion will be facing off with Chinese local Jing Xiang (14-4-2, 3) in a bout for the WBC Silver Light Flyweight title.
The winner will shoot up the WBC rankings at 108lbs, and possibly find themselves on the verge of a shot at WBC champion Ken Shiro. For the loser however it would be a major set back. A loss for Sabillo would be his 6th in 10 bouts bout whilst a defeat for Xiang would would end a promising 6 fight winning run.
A second title bout on this same card see former Japanese Heavyweight title contender Kotatsu Takehara (15-11-3, 8) [竹原 虎辰] battle against Chinese foe Zhiyu Wu (8-2-1, 2) in a bout for the WBC Asian Boxing Council Heavyweight title. Given that the fighters are 40 and 35 respectively we don't see this being the start of some great charge up the rankings, but both men will be looking at this as a chance to get a notable regional title at the tail end of their career.
Last year Edward Heno (12-0-5, 5) travelled to Nakagami twice to face Seita Ogido for the OPBF Light Flyweight title, having a very controversial draw in the first bout before stopping Ogido in the second bout to claim the title. Today he returned to a Filipino ring to take on former WBO Minimumweight champion Merlito Sabillo (27-5-1, 13), who was looking to make his first defense of the ABF Light Flyweight title.
The bout, which took place Bacolod City, was a huge step up in clss for Heno though he managed tocome out on top, taking a split decision over Sabillo. The scores for the bout were 119-109 and 118-110 to Heno whilst the third judge managed to have the contest 116-112 to Sabillo, going massively against the other two judges.
For Heno the win boosts his chance of moving towards a world title fight, and even prior to today's contesthe was ranked in the top 15 of all 4 major world title bodies, with the WBO actually placing Sabillo higher than Heno who will likely move into the top 10 when their rankings are next updated.
As for Sabillo the future is pretty bleak, even if the result was "only" a split decision loss. The 34 year old has scored just 4 wins in the last 4 years, going 4-5 during that time, and has failed in 3 shots at OPBF titles during that run. At the age of 34 it's hard to see where Sabillo will go next.
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