IF THERE is one thing on the minds of both Merlito Sabillo and AJ “Bazooka” Banal, it’s to return to world title contention as soon as possible.
Sabillo has already felt being on top of the world after becoming the World Boxing Organization (WBO) mini-flyweight titleholder. But his reign only lasted a year, and he lost the title in his third title defense.
“I’m ready to fight for a world title anytime,” the 30-year-old soft-spoken Sabillo told Sun.Star Cebu yesterday. “I’m always prepared. But it’s up to my manager and promoter.”
Sabillo was outclassed by Francisco Rodriguez in his title defense in Mexico last March 22. Rodriguez stopped him in 10 rounds.
“I will work harder and be fiercer inside the ring. That fight in Mexico took away some of my ferocity,” said Sabillo, recalling his first career defeat. “I have to be more disciplined. If I have a fight date, then I have to prepare early. I also need to get proper rest so that when the fight comes, I’ll be in top condition.”
Banal, on the other, hasn’t felt the euphoria of being on top. Touted as a future world champion early in his career, Banal has lost in two world title attempts in a span of four years.
The 25-year-old Cebuano first fought for a world title in 2008 against Panamanian banger Rafael Concepcion for the interim World Boxing Association (WBA) super flyweight belt in Cebu. However, his plans were foiled after he got knocked out by Concepcion in 10 rounds. Banal’s second attempt came in 2012 against Pungluang Sor Singyu for the vacant WBO bantamweight crown in Manila. Banal was once again stopped, this time in the ninth round.
“If I’m given another chance for a world championship then I will be ready,” said Banal. “I’m ready anytime.”
Sabillo and Banal are seeing action in the undercard of the stacked Pinoy Pride 28 – “History in the Making” show on Nov. 15 at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino.
Sabillo (23-1-1, 12 KOs) faces off with Indonesian Faris Nenggo (8-6-3, 2 KOs), while Banal (31-2-1, 22 KOs) takes on 35-year-old Thai Maxsaisai Sithsaithong (15-5, 4 KOs). Unbeaten 19-year-old prospect Mark Magsayo (8-0, 6 KOs) is also in the undercard against 18-year-old South Korean Moon Sun Jung (2-3-3).
Though up against opponents who shouldn’t pose a threat to both Sabillo and Banal, these types of fights should keep both world-class boxers busy and in shape for bigger fights in the future.