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.)


By:  Eddie Alinea –

Manila(PNA) – Newly-crowned World Boxing Organization mini-flyweight champion Merlito Sabillo, plans to stay in the 105-pound division throne as long as he can.

“I will focus hard in training so I can keep my title,” said Sabillo, who in winning the crown, became one of the only three remaining world boxing champions following successive defeats suffered by his more illustrious compatriots Manny Pacquiao, Brian Viloria and Nonito Donaire Jr.

Sabillo knocked out Colombian Luis dela Rosa in the eighth round in his first overseas fight at the Coliseo Mario de León in Cerete, Colombia last March 9. It was for the interim title, and after Moises Fuentes moved up in weight and vacated the crown, the WBO decided to install the Filipino as the new champion.

Sabillo carried his belt as he graced yesterday’s PSA Forum at Shakey’s Malate along with his trainer Michael Domingo and ALA Promotions vice president Dennis Cañete.

Cañete said Sabillo will make his first title defense on June 29 in Bacolod City.

“We are waiting for the WBO approval for his voluntary defense before we choose an opponent. But it will be among the top 10 in the mini-flyweight class,” said Cañete.

Sabillo sent Dela Rosa down in the seventh round of the brutal and exciting contest then finished him off in the 2:52 mark of the next round.

“It was an exciting bout and even WBO president Paco Valcarcel was impressed and said Sabillo can become a great champion,” said the ALA Promotions official.

Sabillo is undefeated in 21 fights with 11 knockouts, two of them coming in the first round. But he has what it takes to last as well because three of his wins came in 12-round decisions.

Sabillo, who turned pro when he was 24, is aware of the fact that the Philippines just lost three world titles following successive losses by Manny Pacquiao, Brian Viloria and Nonito Donaire Jr.

He wants to use this as motivation.

“It’s a little sad to see them lose. But that’s sports. You win some and you lose some,” said Sabillo, now ranked among Donnie Nietes (WBO minimumweight) and Johnriel Casimero (IBF light-flyweight) as the remaining Filipino world champions.

Photo- Merlito Sabillo celebrating with trainer Edito Villamor