Merlito Sabillo joined the growing list of Filipino world champions after he demolished Colombian Luis de la Rosa in the eighth round of their showdown for the interim World Boxing Organization (WBO) minimumweight title Sunday at Coliseo Mario de Leon in Cerete, Cordoba, Colombia.
The Bacolod City-raised, Cebu-based Sabillo (22-0, 6 KOs), fighting out of the ALA Gym and managed by Rev. Henry Guanzon, knocked down De La Rosa (21-2-12 KOs) twice in the eighth round, forcing referee Gino Rodriguez to stop the bout with two seconds left in the round.
Sabillo started strong and inflicted a cut over De La Rosa’s left eye with a wicked uppercut that had the Colombian in dire straits in the opening round.
But the Colombian recovered fast and engaged the southpaw Sabillo in a fiery exchange of punches to the delight of the crowd.
De La Rosa often rocked Sabillo with his fists but the Filipino proved to be a strong and resilient fighter, dishing out blows as good as he took them.
Sabillo finally caught De la Rosa with a right hook that dropped the Colombian in the eighth round. Although he beat the count, De la Rosa was in serious trouble as Sabillo pressed the attack.
A left straight by Sabillo produced the second knockdown late in the round.
De la Rosa beat the count again, but he was visibly disoriented and Rodriguez decided he had enough.
The large Colombia crowd later gave Sabillo and De La Rosa a standing ovation and the local mayor invited Sabillo to come back to fight in the summer against another world-ranked Colombian.
The win came just days before world super bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr. will be honored as co-Athlete of the Year by the Philippine Sportswriters Association during its Annual Awards Night this Saturday.
Also to be honored with major awards during the affair are the other reigning ring champs—WBO and WBA flyweight champion Brian Viloria, WBO light flyweight king Donnie Nietes, IBF light flyweight ruler Johnriel Casimero and WBC flyweight titlist Sonny Boy Jaro. Salven L. Lagumbay, Contributor