Excellent match-making at Pinoy Pride 23

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By Jingo Quijano

Last Round

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


PINOY Pride 23 held at the Araneta Coliseum was another successful installment for ALA Promotions.

It was also a well-stacked card, as ALA Gym showcased its best fighters all on one card -a fitting end to another great year for local boxing.

I found the match-making to be excellent for the two main events as one opponent provided a stiff test to an up-and-coming star while the other allowed a long reigning champ to re-establish and regain his killer instinct.

SABILLO VS. BUITRAGO. The co-main event was a barnburner of a fight. Undefeated Merlito Sabillo is yet to become a household name among casual boxing fans, despite being our current WBO minimum-weight champ.

He is a lefty who fights like Manny Pacquiao—aggressive, fast and powerful which makes his bouts fan-friendly.

Last Saturday he faced Nicaraguan Carlos Buitrago and was tested severely this early in his title reign. He was quite lucky to escape with a Split Draw verdict, Buitrago came into the fight also with an undefeated record (26-0, and 16 knockouts).

The inherent problem with fighting in the lower weight classes (in this case the lowest) is the lack of marquee names that sound familiar to fight fans and even to matchmakers;

Ergo, Buitrago’s immaculate slate was an enigma—either he’s that good, or he’s propped up his slate fighting tomato cans on the way up.

He’s fought almost exclusively in his native country of Nicaragua and fought only once in the US and in Mexico. The best names on his list? Juliad Yedras and Jader Escobar. My point exactly.

Turns out though, that he was as good as his undefeated record advertised and we were treated to one hellacious donnybrook.

STYLES. Buitrago wasn’t particularly fast or powerful, but he had the uncanny technique of matching up well against Sabillo’s southpaw stance.

In the first few rounds, Sabillo wasn’t as active and Buitrago’s better accuracy must have reflected well in the scorecards.

Sabillo cranked it up in the middle rounds and the frenetic pace he set allowed him to rally.

He got careless though in the ninth and was stunned by a right hook—but like his idol Pacquiao, he shrugged it off continued his attack.

Most of the rounds were really close and could arguably have been scored either way.

The split draw verdict was fair and it represented the stylistic struggle that took place between a talented counter-puncher against a feral, relentless aggressor.

Sabillo’s fans have nothing to fret about. The lessons learned from a fight like that and could be worth 10 bouts against lesser contenders.

If anything, this proves that he has the mettle and the potential to become an even bigger star that his ALA stablemates.

DONNIE NIETES. “Ahas” made short work of Sammy Guttierez who came into the fight designed and pre-labeled as a “tune-up foe.”

This despite having once held the interim WBA minimum-weight title and the WBC Silver light flyweight crown (whatever that means), Nietes (32-1, 18KOs) wasted no time in playing true to the script as he right away pummeled Guttierez who had no answer to Nietes’s power and speed.

After a brutal beatdown resulting in three knockdowns, the end came mercifully for Guttierez with only 2 seconds left in the third round.

Nietes was coming off a disputed majority draw verdict in his last fight against Moises Fuentes and badly needed to light up his knockout column.

If we disregard his stoppage of Danai Meendaeng in 2012 (who had a paltry 0-1 record) Donnie hasn’t stopped a quality opponent in his last 4 fights. His last knockout win came in April 2011 against Armando Vasquez.

At least this time around, there were no pretensions about the quality of his opponent.

Nietes himself provided the metric of his opponent pending more lucrative match-ups and he performed according to match-making expectations.

LAST ROUND. It’s on my US-based USC Law school classmate Atty. Edjing Dinopol, who celebrates his birthday today. Cheers!

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 04, 2013.

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