It's fair to say that 2014 was the year of the upset with a huge number of upsets taking place all over the place. Whilst it maybe lacked in terms of title changing upsets, with a relatively low number of those, there was a lot of shockers in the sport among contenders and hopefuls.
Due to the sheer number of upsets in 2014 there are some that don't seem to get mentioned on any list of biggest shocks of the year. Today we look at one of those that really was a massive surprise, even if it didn't get much attention at all outside of the Philippines. This was one where going in the bout was seen as nothing more than a easy confidence builder for a former world champion, who was expected to get back into the title mix. Instead it turned out to be a massive, and bloody, shocker.
Ellias Nggenggo (8-7-3, 2) Vs Merlito Sabillo (23-1-1, 12)
In March 2013 Merlito Sabillo, known as the "Tiger", travelled to Colombia and stopped Luis de la Rose to win the "interim" WBO Minimumweight title, before being upgraded to full champion soon afterwards and he ended the year with two defenses of the title to his name. By the end of the year he was in the Ring Magazine top 10, and had shown himself to be a solid fighter. Sadly though he had lost the WBO title in early 2014 when he ran into the then unheralded Francisco Rodriguez Jr, and was smashed in 10 rounds by the talented Mexican.
In Sabillo's first bout after the loss to Rodriguez Jr the Filipino moved up in weight and took on Indonesian journeyman Ellias Nggenggo. Sporting a record of 8-7-3 (2) Nggenggo was given no chance against Sabillo, and was expected to just take the former champion some rounds.
Although not a great fighter Nggenggo had proven his toughness and had recently gone the distance with Ryuji Hara and Paipharob Kokietgym, losing pretty much every round against the two contenders.
On paper this had UD8 Sabillo written all over it going in to the bout. The champion was going to get some rounds, rebuild his confidence and begin a second charge to a world title fight. That however didn't happen. In fact it never even came close to happening.
Sabillo looked confident at the start of the bout, he looked in good shape, despite moving up in weight, and crisp. Nggenggo on the other hand looked crude, wild and rugged, like many of the Indonesian journeymen of the time. There was a lack of skills behind Nggenggo's offensive, with hayemakers being the preferred to jabs from the Indonesian.
The first round went as expected, as with Sabillo in almost complete control, landing bombs at the end of the round. Having found his range in the opening round Sabillo turned up the heat in round 2, taking some shots in return but easily out landing Nggenggo, who looked clumsy, slow and defensive poor. It looked like a mismatch, despite Nggenggo having some success until the final seconds of round 2, when Nggenggo began to have his first sustained success.
It was suddenly becoming clear that Nggenggo wasn't there to make up the numbers, despite the fact that Sabillo was a former champion and in round 3 Nggenggo began to actually out box Sabillo, who was coming forward but having limited success. By the end of the round Sabillo was being chin-checked by the Indonesian, who had been landing some really good counters. It seemed Sabillo was winning, but having a much, much tougher time of things than anyone had anticipated.
Although Nggenggo was exceeding expectations he was still almost certainly behind as we entered round 4.
Early in round 4 Sabillo was left with a nasty cut on his right eye. The cut had come from a punch, and immediately the referee took Sabillo to the ringside doctor to take a look. Sabillo, knowing the cut was a bad one, stepped up his aggression, knowing he had very limited time to stop Nggenggo if he was going to win.
The Filipino crowd were getting behind their man as he went looking for a finish. Despite the effort the cut wasn't going away, and in fact was just worsening. The local favourite was taken to the doctor for the second time, with around 1 minute of the round left, with blood smearing down his face. This time doctor had no option but to wave off the contest.
The crowd, who just seconds earlier were cheering on their man, were left silent.
On replays it was clear it was clear the cut had been caused by a left hand from Nggenggo, that had sliced the face of Sabillo.
Sadly for Nggenggo he would only score one more win, a decision at home over Jack Amisa, before losing 7 in a row. As for Sabillo his career never really recovered and he was never again in the mix for a world title, losing 6 of his next 10.
This was a massive shock and ended Sabillo's hopes of returning to the world level, and yet rarely gets a mention. A genuinely forgotten upset, from a crazy, crazy year of professional boxing.
The middle of November is hectic with fights involving Asians at domestic, regional and even world level. The huge names might not be in action lots of solid fighters are.
On November 11th Japanese fans get a real treat with an OPBF title Quadruple header.
Merlito Sabillo (25-3-1, 12) v Ryuya Yamanaka (12-2, 3)
The lowest weight title being competed for on the OPBF quadruple header show is the Minimumweight title and will see former world champion Merlito Sabillo take on Japanese youngster Ryuya Yamanaka for the vacant title. Sabillo. In recent years Sabillo has struggled, and has gone 2-3-1 in his last 6 bouts, suggesting his career is hanging by a thread. Yamanaka is much less well known, but has been suggested as a possible future WBO title challenger and will have to win here if he's to get a shot in 2017. It should be noted however that this is a huge step up for the 21 year old Japanese fighter who is being thrown in with a proverbial shark here.
Takahiro Yamamoto (18-4, 15) v Mark John Yap (24-12, 10)
A much more interesting bout comes at Bantamweight where we'll see heavy handed champion Takahiro Yamamoto defending his title against Japanese based Filipino veteran Mark John Yap. On paper this doesn't look hugely interesting given that Yap has double digit losses, however his record, like that of many Filipino's, is misleading and in recent years he has been stringing together good wins, including two over Hiroyuki Hisataka and one over Tatsuya Ikemizu. Saying that however Yamamoto is a talented fighter, with heavy hands and an ultra aggressive style which makes him look like a fighter who is going to be very hard to beat at this level.
Shun Kubo (10-0, 7) v Jin Wook Lim (8-4-5, 2)
At Super Bantamweight we'll see the unbeaten, and world ranked, Shun Kubo attempting to defend his title against Korean visitor Jin Wook Lim. Kubo is talented and is seen as the future of the Shinsei gym however it does seem like his team are wanting to develop him at OPBF level before having him follow in the footsteps of stablemate Hozumi Hasegawa, and this will be his second defense of the OPBF title. Lim will be making his international debut here and comes in to the bout as a former Korean Bantamweight champion, and one who holds a win over Sa Myung Noh and a draw with Ye Joon Kim, this is however a huge step up for Kim and one that he's making on the road. A very tough assignment for him against a very talented hopeful.
Masayoshi Nakatani (12-0, 7) v Allan Tanada (14-5-3, 6)
At Lightweight we have OPBF champion Masayoshi Nakatani looking to extend his reign, and take it into a third year, as he takes on former OPBF Super Featherweight champion Allan Tanada. The under-rated Nakatani holds notable wins over the likes of Yoshitaka Kato, Ricky Sismundo and Shuhei Tsuchiya and will likely be adding another notable win to his record here. Tanada holds goof wins himself over the likes of Jose Ocampo, Rikiya Fukuhara and Roy Mukhlis but has lost 3 of his last 4 and few would back him here against the much taller Nakatani, however he is upset minded and won't fear Nakatani's reputation.
Momo Koseki (22-2-1, 8) v Chie Higano (6-4, 2)
On a separate Japanese card fight fans will be able to see Japan's longest reigning active world champion. That's WBC Atomweight champion Momo Koseki who has held her title for more than 8 years and looks to extend that reign with her 17th defence! The frightening Koseki will be up against domestic foe Chie Higano in what should be a straight forward win for Koseki who looks to extend various Japanese records here. For Higano the bout is a huge step up from facing domestic class foes to facing a nightmarish world champion in what really should be a mismatch.
Toshio Arikawa (13-4, 11) v Yasuhiro Okawa (14-12-3, 5) II
On November 14th we go back to Japanese title action here as Japanese Welterweight champion Toshio Arikawa attempts to make the first defense of his title. On paper this looks like a mismatch, and Arikawa is in great form winning his last 4 bouts with stoppages against Akinori Watanabe and Nobuyuki Shindo in his last 2 bouts. Saying that however Okawa holds a relatively recent win over Arikawa, and has lost only once in the last 5 years. This looks like a mismatch but should turn out to be a very interesting bout.
Iwan Zoda (11-1, 10) v Jeronil Borres (7-1-1, 5)
Our favourite Indonesian prospect returns to the ring on November 18th to defend his IBF Youth Flyweight title, and move towards a potential world title fight. The exciting Iwan Zoda will be up against fellow youngster Jeronil Borress, a once beaten Filipino who has has never been stopped and recent took on former world title challenger Richard Claveras. This is far from an easy defense for Zoda and instead it's a chance for him to prove himself, and his power, and the bout could end up telling us a lot about both fighters.
Ryosuke Iwasa (22-2, 14) v Luis Rosa (22-0-0-2, 10)
One of the most notable non-title bouts of the month for Asian fight fans sees former world title challenger Ryosuke Iwasa take on the unbeaten Luis Rosa in an IBF world title eliminator at Super Bantamweight. On paper this is a must win for Iwasa, who is best known for losing to Lee Haskins and Shinsuke Yamanaka, For Rosa the bout is a step up following a string of bouts against relatively limited opponents, like German Merez and Luis Hinojosa, but he's touted as a potential world champion and will be wanting to show his ability here. Interestingly the winner of this could find themselves up against the winner of the upcoming Jonathan Guzman/Yukinori bout.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).