Ever since Shinsuke Yamanaka lost the WBC Bantamweight title to Luis Nery in 2017 the belt has been in a weird state of flux. Originally Nery was the champion, until he lost the belt on the scales, then Takuma Inoue won the interim title, with Nordine Oubaali winning the regular title a month later. Oubaali managed 2 defenses in 2019, including 1 over Takuma Inoue. He was then supposed to defeat the title against Nonito Donaire this year.
Sadly plans for Donaire Vs Oubaali got scrapped in November, when Oubaali contracted Covid19. As a result Donaire was then scheduled to face Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1, 12) for the vacant title, before Donaire ended up contracting Covid himself. As a result Donaire was himself replaced by fellow Filipino Reymart Gaballo (23-0, 20), and it was agreed that Donaire anbd Gaballo would fight for the interim title, whilst the mess around them got sorted out.
Incidentally seeing Rodriguez getting a shot at the title now takes us weird full circle. He was supposed to face Luis Nery last year in a WBC world title eliminator, which was cancelled following Nery failed to make weight. Strangely Rodriguez wasn't then given mandatory status, with that going to Donaire, who as mentioned was supposed to fight Oubaali. As for those wondering Gaballo was himself scheduled to fight on this very same card, against Chilean foe Jose Velasquez (28-6-2, 19) for the WBA "interim" Bantamweight title.
Despite all the changes and swapping of fighters, we're expecting a great bout here between two men desperate to make a name for themselves, and make the most of a very odd situation.
Of the two fighters it's Emmanuel "Manny" Rodriguez who is the better known. He is a Puerto Rican fighter who first made his name in the amateurs winning the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics and coming second at the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships. When he turned professional in 2012 there was solid expectations on him to have success in the professional ranks though he was matched relatively softly early on. In 2014 he took a step up in class and impressed, knocking out Cartagena in the opening round. It was proof that he was a talent but sadly it took a long time to get a big bout, with his first world title contest coming in May 2018, when he easily beat an over-weight Paul Butler in the UK to claim the IBF Bantamweight title.
It seemed that Rodriguez's win over Butler would be his coming out party, and lead him to entering the WBSS. In his WBSS quarter final he narrowly out-pointed Jason Moloney, retaining his IBF title by split decision over the talented Aussie before returning to the UK and losing in 2 rounds to Naoya Inoue in May 2019 in a WBSS semi-final. Since then he hasn't fought, in part due to Luis Nery failing to make weight for a bout against him last year, as mentioned earlier.
In the ring Rodriguez is a very skilled, quick, and well schooled fighter. His amateur pedigree shows in the ring and he's very smooth and natural between the ropes, with a good crisp jab and a very sharp right hand. He likes to dictate the action from the center of the ring and did ask questions of Inoue last year in the opening round. He takes a good shot when he needs to and moves well. Sadly though there are question marks about his stamina, which showed in the second half against Moloney, and despite having a solid first round against Inoue he did several left hooks before being taken out in round 2 when Inoue began to go through the gears. As well as the issues we saw against Inoue there is also 19 months of inactivity since that bout, and he's had no confidence building bout since.
Gaballo is a somewhat unheralded Filipino, who's now just 24, has the tools to be a star, and it looked like he was on the way to becoming a major name in 2018 when he upset previously unbeaten American Stephon Young in Florida to claim the WBA Interim title. Sadly that title lead him to nothing, however a win over Rodriguez would see him make a name for himself.
Gaballo made his debut in 2014, as a 17 year old, and immediately looked like one to watch as he bowled over his first 4 opponents inside the opening rounds, in the space of 5 months. He was up against novices, but was needing around a minute per fight. His first 5 bouts ended early before he finally started to go rounds, going 4 rounds with Rodel Garde and 6 with Paulo Perono. Amazingly they, along with Stephon Young, are the only men to hear the final bell with Gaballo. After back to back decisions wins Gaballo went back on a tear stopping 11 opponents in a row, including 9 in the first 2 rounds.
Whilst many opponents during Gaballo's stoppage run were poor he did manage to pick up experience on the road, stopping veteran Ernesto Guerrero in Hawaii and Ulises Rivero in Mexico before facing Young and proving he was a real one to watch. He dropped Young in round 3 and took a 12 round decisions, proving his stamina in the process and taking the WBA interim title. Sadly however the risk/reward for facing him was ridiculous and no one came forth for his interim title, leading him to having 4 low profile bouts afterwards, all ending in the first 6 rounds.
In the ring Gaballo is a legitimate nightmare. Technically he is crude, he's open, he can leave gaps to counter and he can get over-excited when he has his man hurt. However he gets away with it for 3 reasons. He's incredibly heavy handed. What he hits he hurts, and that's with both hands. His jab is like a ramrod, his hook is like a sledgehammer and his right hand is pure dynamite when it lands. He combines that power with scary hand-speed, and he can land a punch before an opponent gets the chance to react to his openness. He's also very unpredictable, and trying to time him with counters is tricky due to how unpredictable he is and how he mixes straight shots with some very wide ones. Trying to get a read on where he's punching from, with his speed and power, makes him a very dangerous fighters. He's also, in more recent bouts, shown a willingness to take his time when he needs to, and it's clear that he can box as well as bang, and does, as mentioned, have a very good, if somewhat under-utilised, jab.
On paper Rodriguez should be the favourite. He's the better technical fighter, the more proven man and the one with gulf in experience, at least in terms of quality experience. However a lengthy break from the ring, a loss last time out to Inoue and with the comedown from facing a legend like Donaire to facing an unknown like Gaballo could well have an impact on him and his performance.
Gaballo on the other hand will be riding high. He was in training for a bout on this show, and has seen his opportunity improve. He has gone from being on a supporting bout to being in the headline bout, and being given a chance to steal the limelight. We think that get the best from him.
We expect a cautious start, from both, but ring rust and mental doubt will creep into Rodriguez as the bout goes on. By round 4 or 5 we'll start to see Gaballo settle, get comfortable, and put his foot on the gas. We don't think Gaballo will blow Rodriguez out, but we do think he has the power and speed to drop the Puerto Rican, make him gun shy and work his way to a clear decision win, and the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title.
Prediction - Gaballo UD12
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.