Francisco Rodriguez Jr. annexes the WBO Minimum Weight World Title after scoring a 10th round TKO over Merlito Sabillo

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Philippine boxing went off to a dismal start in 2014 as one of the three remaining world champions was dethroned.

Mexican Francisco Rodriguez Jr. scored a 10th round TKO upset over defending WBO minimum weight champion Merlito “Tiger” Sabillo of the Phillipines before a wildly cheering hometown crowd in Monterrey, Sunday, Manila Time. 

Although there were moments when he sought to live up to his nickname and fight like a tiger,  Sabillo was eventually battered all through out the fight and got a boxing lesson from the 20 year old Mexican.

Even Atty. Ed Tolentino and Ronnie Nathanielz who covered the fight for ABS-CBN Sports and Action had Rodriguez winning every round although Sabillo did have his moments in rounds four and five, but not at all decisively. 

Shocking Defeat

It was a shocking result for the previously undefeated Sabillo who couldn’t cope with the hand-speed, the power and the relentless aggression of Rodriguez who fought to a well crafted fight plan that completely baffled Sabillo. 

Rodriguez was a vastly improved fighter from the No. 9 ranked WBO challenger who lost by a 7th round TKO to unbeaten WBA light flyweight champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and as early as the opening round proved he was capable of taking the power shots of Sabillo. 

Rodriguez started strong and was even kicking right from the start of the bell.

He scored two knockdowns in the second round after Rodriguez nailed Sabillo with a couple of cracking right straights that stunned the former street fighter from Bacolod City in the opening round. 

Rodriguez often drove Sabillo to the ropes and connected with some vicious right straights, hooks and shots to the body which sapped the energy of the Filipino who was reported to have his best training camp ever and stepped into the ring ripped and ready. 

Rodriguez was very impressive from start to finish as he ended fairly close rounds with a flurry in the dying seconds to steal rounds that may have gone to Sabillo. 

Sabillo didn’t even showed some flashes that earned him the crown before.Trainer Edito “Ala” Villamor was at loss on what tactics he will implement on Sabillo and how to counter the aggressive Mexican youngster. 

Villamor even gave Sabillo one last round to try and turn the fight around but  he wisely stepped onto the ring apron as Sabillo was being battered and asked referee Eddie Claudio to call it off. 

The time was 1:50 of the 10th round and although Sabillo protested the stoppage in the mildest manner he knew his crown was lost. 

As early as the fifth round,Sabillo had complained that he couldn’t see in his left eye which was swollen and showed signs of a cut which obviously hampered his vision especially against the deadly right straight of Rodriguez.

Rodriguez improved to 14-2 with 10 knockouts while Sabillo suffered his first setback of his career, dropped to 23-1-1 with 12 knockouts. 

The Filipino fighter fought courageously even if it is already clear that he is being outpointed by Rodriguez and jumped off his stool at the start of every round, hoping he could connect with one single punch similar to that which helped him win the title from fancied Luis De La Rosa of Colombia and sealed a 9th round knockout over another Colombian Jorlie Estrada in his first title defense with one crushing left hook to the ribs. 

But Rodriguez who was in superb condition took Sabillo’s best shots and hardly winced. 

The setback left the country with Sabillo’s ALA stablemate Donnie`Ahas’ Nietes (WBO light-flyweight) and John Riel Casimero (International Boxing Federation junior flyweight) as the only world legitimate world champions.

Popular fighters Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire are not world champions anymore because Pacquiao lost that belt in his first encounter with Timothy Bradley Jr. while Guillermo Rigondeaux annexed Donaire’s belt.

Pacquaio will fight for the belt in his rematch with Bradley on April 12.

No Excuses

“No excuses. You got to give credit to Rodriguez. Sabillo is a guy who overachieved and became a world champion because of his heart and guts and we learned a lot in the fight against No. 1 contender Carlos Buitrago (which ended in a split draw),” said ALA Promotions president Michael Aldeguer to the Manila Standard after the defeat.

“Sabillo is well conditioned but it was a disappointing loss and there’s nothing I could say. Rodriguez showed his power and he was the better man,” he added.

— with reports from

Ed Umbao

Founder of | co-Founder of

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