'Tiger' bows to Rodriguez, vows to return

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Monday, March 24, 2014


PRAYERS and words of encouragement are not enough, sometimes, more if you are fighting against a hometown crowd.

Merlito “Tiger” Sabillo (23-1-1, 12KOs) of Bacolod City experienced this on Saturday as he tasted the first defeat of his boxing career. A 10th round upset by new WBO minimumweight champion Mexican Francisco Rodriguez Jr. (14-2, 10KOs) stunned the Bacolod pugilist at the Arena Monterrey, Monterrey, Nuevo León in Mexico.

Sabillo’s record was stained by the much younger Rodriguez as the Negrense pride was sent reeling into the canvas in round two. Like a wounded tiger, Sabillo fought back in the succeeding rounds but the hometown hero unleashed more unanswered punches.

Rodriguez poured everything he has in the 10th forcing American referee Eddie Claudio to stop the contest.

“I apologize to my supporters, to my family and to everyone who believed in me that I can defend my title,” Sabillo said. “He got me in the early rounds and I was totally surprised. I really felt bad about it. It’s quite painful.”

But, being a true champion, Sabillo remained spiritually strong. “I will rise again and regain my title. I will train harder and be stronger when I return.”

"Everything has always a reason and God knows it,” Sabillo said.

Bago City-hailed Arthur Villanueva, reigning WBO International Super Flyweight champion, said “he (Sabillo) shouldn’t be discouraged of the loss. That’s the fight, sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. What’s important is that, we don’t lose hope. Just get up again and regain the title."

“Let’s pray for him [Sabillo] that he won’t be discouraged. That’s boxing. Just train hard again,” Top Prime Stable manager Rev. Henry Guanzon said.

Bacolod City Mayor Monico Puentevella said that Sabillo shouldn’t lose hope. “Go for a rematch. But not in Mexico. Losing is part of the contest. Just be strong,” the mayor told Sabillo.

Puentevella acknowledged while it’s hard to fight in the enemy’s territory, it’s much harder to fight in Mexico.

The 30-year-old Toboso-born Sabillo trained hard for months in San Diego, California before the Mexico fight. The dethroned titlist was joined in his corner by coaches Edito Villamor and Michael Domingo.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 24, 2014.

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