Last year was a funny year for unbeaten Filipino Merlito Sabillo (23-0-1, 12). He started the year a complete unknown before stopping Colombian Luis De la Rosa to claim the WBO interim Minimumweight title. From this his popularity blossomed and he looked very solid in his first defense, stopping the limited Colombian Jorle Estrada in the 9th round.
Unfortunately for Sabillo his second defense didn't go so well and he struggled to a draw with Nicaragua's exciting youngster Carlos Buitrago. It was a fight that could have been a contender for Fight of the Year though many felt the result was a home town decision to keep Buitrago as the champion.
Whatever you thought of the Sabillo/Buitrago result is immaterial now and Sabillo will be looking to put it behind him as he travels to Mexico for his 3rd defense. Whilst it would have been nice to see him give Buitrago a rematch on neutral soil Sabillo will instead be facing dangerous Mexican Francisco Rodriguez Jr (13-2, 9), a man ranked #10 by the WBO at Minimumweight and #14 by the WBC at Light Flyweight.
Although a relative unknown the 20 year old Rodriguez is a a fighter with more than 3 years of professional experience under his belt. Those 3 years and 15 professional contests have seen him sharing the ring with some decent fighters, most notable Roman Gonzalez, who stopped Rodriguez in 7 rounds,
and Manuel Vargas, who was stopped in 3 by Rodriguez.
What we know of Rodriguez is that he is gutsy, you don't fight Roman Gonzalez unless you have real guts and courage and he is hard hitting with 9 stoppages in 13 wins. However he's also limited in terms of his boxing ability and the few decision wins he does, other than his most recent against Ernesto Guerrero, have been close. It seems that if his power doesn't take you out then he struggles.
Sabillo on the other hand is a talented fighter who has come from a street fighting background and has since had to develop into a boxer. In terms of his power he wasn't blessed with it but had to work on it. His first 11 bouts saw him scoring just 3 stoppages and his first 18 fights saw him with just 7 stoppages. Since then however he has began to believe in his own power and scored 5 stoppages in 6 fights with only Carlos Buitrago surviving 12 rounds with the Filipino.
In terms of experience it's to pick against Sabillo who has proven he's a warrior, proven his toughness and even proven that he's capable of fighting well on the road with his victory last year in Colombia. He might not be anything special but he's that solid type of fighter who will never be easy to beat and in fact it'll take a true divisional elite to beat him.
As for Rodriguez, he may have home advantage but it's hard to see him making it to the final bell. It took Gonzalez 7 rounds to stop the Mexican and whilst Sabillo doesn't hit as hard as "Chocolatito" we don't imagine it'll take him much longer to see off the Mexican maybe 9 or 10 rounds.
Hopefully the winner here will give Buitrago a shot later in the year though we could understand both fighters being apprehensive of "Chocorroncito".
(Photo courtesy of http://www.alaboxing.com)
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.