By Rich Mazon –

Reigning WBO minimumweight (105 lbs.) champion Merlito Sabillo (23-0-1, 12 KOs) of the Philippines will be defending his world title belt in enemy territory this Saturday evening in Mexico (Sunday morning in the Philippines).

Sabillo, of Negros Occidental, is scheduled to protect his diadem in Monterey, Mexico, hometown of his challenger Francisco Rodriguez Jr. in his third defense of his title.

Team Sabillo, who arrived in Monterey, Mexico from San Diego, California last Tuesday, expressed that despite the apprehension of fighting in his challenger’s hometown, he is confident that his recent training and preparation for this fight will prevail above the ring.

“Siyempre kahit sino naman po ay maalangan kasi nasa teritoryo tayo ng kalaban, pero wala tayong magagawa kasi promotion nila eh. Ang sa akin ay Diyos na lang ang nakakaalam at gagawin ko ang best ko,“ Sabillo told this writer in an interview before leaving for Mexico.

(Of course, anyone will be uncomfortable because we are in enemy territory but we can’t do anything because it is their promotions. For me, only God knows what will happen and that I will do my best.)

But his coach, Edito Villamor, head trainer of the ALA stable, has confidence that Sabillo will fare well against Rodriguez Jr. despite the favorable venue and the hometown crowd for their Mexican counterpart.

“Hindi naman kami alangan (sa paglaban sa Mexico). Sanay naman si Merlito. Noong kinuha niya yung belt ng world title, doon yun sa Colombia. Dito (US) kami nag training camp at magaling naman ang training namin dito kaya wala namang problema sa kanya,” Villamor said.

(We are not uncomfortable (of fighting in Mexico). Merlito is accustomed to fighting elsewhere. When he won the belt for the world title, it was in Colombia. We spent our training camp here (US) and our training is great here and I think there won’t be any problems for him.)

Sabillo and some of his fellow ALA stable mates trained in the States for most part of this camp, under the tutelage of trainers, Edito Villamor and Michael Domingo. They spent time in various boxing gyms in California, sparring against fighters from those gyms. Both boxer and trainer are upbeat that their time spent in training in the US will help them against Rodriguez Jr. who is ranked number 9 by the WBO.

“Malaking tulong, nakapag-training kami ng conditioning training dito under Nick Curson. Maganda naman pinagawa niya, yung mga plyometrics, lahat. Iba talaga, iba ang training dito.” said Villamor.

(It’s a big help, we underwent condition training under Nick Curson. He made them do plyometrics and other stuff. Training here is really different.)

Sabillo admitted that he noticed an improvement on his conditioning after undergoing the various strength and conditioning exercises and that also he expects no difficulty in meeting the 105 pound limit for the fight.

The 30 year-old champion is only three pounds above the weight limit last Sunday, a full week ahead of his fight.

Sabillo, who is not fond of trash-talking, made no guarantees but promised to give his best when he puts his title in the line against Rodriguez Jr.

“Hindi lang ako magsabi ng kung ano sir, basta gagawin ko lahat ng best ko para maipanalo at madepensahan ang aking title belt.”

(I don’t want to say anything sir, except that I will give my very best to win and to defend this title.)