Last night in Carson, California we saw a rare-all Filipino world title fight as WBC champion Nonito Donaire (42-6, 28) took on mandatory challenged Reymart Gaballo (24-1, 20) in a bout to unify the WBC regular and interim titles.
On paper this looked really interesting. Donaire, at the age of 39, is ancient for a Bantamweight and to be fighting at world level at such an advanced age is amazing at the lower weights. On the other hand Gaballo had looked explosive, exciting and was coming into his physical prime. It seemed like maybe Gaballo would be the right man, in the right place at the right time, or alternatively Donaire was going to add another big win to his record as he continues to push back father time.
The opening round saw Donaire intelligent pressure his man, coming forward and making Gaballo fight off the back foot, something he has never been comfortable doing. Gaballo had moments where he came forward, and moments where he landed, but he looked constantly fearful of Donaire, and his timing and power. When Donaire landed it seemed to clearly take an effect on Gaballo, whilst Gaballo's shots never really phased Donaire. To his credit Gaballo was the quicker man, but and he had that edge, but that was neutralised by the timing of Donaire.
In round 2 Gaballo, usually an aggressive and exciting fighter, was forced to over-think, and look for single shots when Donaire made mistakes. It was clear that Gaballo was losing his self belief, and his in ring identity, well before Donaire clocked him with a big right hand 2 minutes into the round. A right hand that forced Gaballo to hold. Gaballo had moments boxing, moving, moving, moving and jabbing, but it felt like their was an inevitability about things, given how timid he was becoming and how Donaire's pressure was taking a toll.
Gaballo did have a good moment in round 3, getting Donaire's respect, and clearly having one of his best moments as he looked to kick start his effort, but it was merely a flash point in a round that quickly saw Donaire again force Gaballo on to the back foot, and again seemed to show the challenger being hurt. It was technical, tense, but the inevitability remained, and we got a reminder of that when Donaire landed some huge shots late in the round. It felt, sooner or later, like the power of Donaire was going to see off his man, unless Gaballo sold out and went for it.
Donaire, who seemed to get tuned in at the end of round 3, started round 4 well, landing several big shots in the opening minute. Gaballo tried to respond but his successes were limited, hitting the guard or missing completely. Donaire then seemed to go into seek an destroy mode, walking down Gaballo, forcing him to fire back and stand his ground. That left Gaballo in position for a brutal right hand to the mid section with dropped Gaballo. Gaballo did seem to get to his feet, but quickly dropped back to his knees, realising he was in far too much pain to continue.
Following the bout talk emerged of a rematch between Donaire and Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18) [井上 尚弥], who will defend his WBA "super" and IBF titles this coming Tuesday. Inoue and his promoter Hideyuki Ohashi have both mentioned the potential rematch, and if Inoue is successful next week it seems their focus will be on setting up this highly anticipated rematch.
To close out a Showtime event earlier today we saw Filipino slugger Reymart Gaballo (24-0, 20) face off with former IBF Bantamweight champion Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-2, 12), in a contest for the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title. A contest that turned out to be a very, very controversial one, with Gaballo taking on a hugely questionable decision.
On paper this looked like it had the ingredients to be a very interesting match up, between an exciting slugger and a very good technical boxer. In the end however it never became the type of fight had expected. In fact seemed like the aggression and excitement of Gaballo had been stripped from him before the opening bell. Gone was the Gaballo we had fallen in love with and instead he was replaced by someone who didn't seem to know his identity in the ring.
Gone was the Gaballo that let shots fly, that was aggressive and wild. In his place was a man over-thinking things, and a man who was trying to out box a master boxer. It was a huge technical faux pas by Gaballo and his team, and one that seemed very counter-intuitive, given their man's best strength has always been his unpredictable offense.
Gaballo's attempt at boxing in the first round saw Rodriguez easily take the first, though to his credit Gaballo did kick up the pace and made round 2 a very competitive one, much more so than the commentary on Showtime made things seem. It was a similar case in round 3, where Rodriguez landed more shots, comfortably, than Gaballo, but the bigger single shots were from Gaballo, and it could well have been that the bigger heavier blows had caught the judges eyes.
In round 4 we saw Gaballo march forward, trying to up the pace of the bout, but he kept walking into counters and jabs. Rodriguez was, for the most part, outboxing Gaballo, but still the Filipino was the one who was making it look like he was aggressive. Horribly ineffective, but aggressive all the same. This could well have made an impact on the judges, who may well have seen the movement from Rodriguez as being negative, and he was very conservative with his own output.
Despite several competitive rounds Rodriguez really impressed in round 5, and seemed to not just let more of his own shots go, landing a number of solid right hands, but also completely shut down Gaballo, who looked lost and confused through the entire round. Credit though to Gaballo, who then began to find his groove in round 6, making for another competitive and close round. He was still being out landed, but once again he seemed to land the bigger shots, and made things uncomfortable for Rodriguez, who technically very accurate, but relied on his jab and movement, in what could have been seen as negative, again, in the eyes of the judges.
With Gaballo knowing he was behind he did, finally, get the motor going in round 7 and had a string string of rounds, much stronger than Showtime's commentary would suggest, in rounds 7, 8 and 9. Although still not the aggressive he had been in the past, such as against Yuya Nakamura, he was a lot more willing to let his shots go, and found a home for his body shots, his left hook and his right hand, even dragging Rodriguez into his fight in round 8.
Interestingly after 9 rounds Showtime's Steve Farhood had given Gaballo just 2 rounds, and he seemed to have been annoyed at needing to give him round 9. The team working for Spanish language TV on ESPN had the bout much, much closer at 86-85. More important than the scores however was the momentum, and it seemed like Gaballo was the man in the ascendency.
Sadly for Gaballo he was rocked early in round 10, and he did nothing to turn the action back in his favour in one of his worst rounds. The Filipino also seemed to struggle to get things going in round 11 as Rodriguez seemed to be back in control with his jab, his movement, and his ability to make Gaballo miss at will. In fact Gaballo seemed to miss that often that he became timid himself and in round 12 he again showed little hunger and desire and Rodriguez took the final round without much effort.
After 12 rounds Showtime had the bout a near shut out to Rodriguez, Spanish TV had the bout competitive, though also had Rodriguez winning. It seemed like the Puerto Rican was set to pick up the WBC interim title, then the scores were announced, with the first score being 116-112 to Gaballo, the second card being 118-110 to Rodriguez, and then the third card went 115-113 to Gaballo, giving him a very questionable decision.
The result will be one held as a robbery, and many will feel that Rodriguez was denied a clear victory. We'll admit that we felt Rodriguez won, though it does need saying the Showtime's commentary really did down play the success that Gaballo had, especially in the 3 or 4 close rounds we had early on.
We can also see how the judges perhaps did favour Gaballo, he wasn't effective, but from the ringside position he likely looked like the man making the fight, pressing the pace, and doing so much more than Rodriguez, who looked tentative at times and boxed very much within himself. From the TV camera angle the clean punches of Rodriguez were clean, and the misses of Gaballo were obvious, but from the outside looking in it probably didn't look the same, and Rodriguez probably did look negative.
Saying that however, this seemed like a decision that went the wrong way, and was the latest set back for Rodriguez, who was stopped by Naoya Inoue last time out, well over a year ago, in the WBSS, and had seen bouts with Luis Nery and Nonito Donaire fall through due to issues outside of his control.
As for Gaballo, he got lucky, and perhaps needs to be allowed to be himself in the ring. Let him be an aggressive swarming fighter. Don't try to reinvent the wheel with him. Yes polish his style, make him more defensively aware and smarten him up, but don't try to change him into a boxer. It is not a style which will suit him and he will not get lucky again like he did here.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.