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.
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).