Pinoy Pride XXI: affirmation, confirmation and redemption
Merlito “Tiger” Sabillo is thrilled to be fighting in front of his countrymen in Metro Manila for the first time, and in a world title fight, at that. The Negros Occidental native is cementing his claim to the WBO minimumweight title in “Pinoy Pride XXI: When Worlds Collide” on July 13 at Solaire Resort and Casino, the first time a world championship bout will be held at that venue. Sabillo won the interim belt in Cerete, Colombia in March. Referee Genaro Rodriguez halted the bout at 2:52 of the eighth round to save Sabillo’s opponent Luis De la Rosa from further punishment.
“I’m very excited to be defending the world title in front of my countrymen. It really means a lot,” Sabillo told The STAR. “I’ve always tried to keep learning and getting better. I never dreamed I would be a world champion.”
Junjun Sabillo tried BMX, basketball and karate, taking the circuitous route before deciding to become a boxer. He is finally fulfilling both his dreams of being able to provide for his family and bringing honor to his country.
“I was really trying to find something, a job to support my family,” the champion recalls. “I became Philippine champion, but the money still wasn’t enough. So I gave my all, became Asia-Pacific champion and world champion, and now I’m happy that I can take care of the people dearest to me.”
Sabillo is undefeated in 22 fights, and has knocked out half of his opponents. Tiger is a very crafty boxer in the ring, patient and persistent. He is up against Colombian Jorle Estrada (17 wins, 6 losses), who has won his last four fights, two by knockout. Sabillo is thankful for the extra boost the home crowd will give him and his fellow ALA Promotions boxers. He follows in the footsteps of stablemate and WBO light flyweight champion Donnie “Ahas” Nietes, who reigned as WBO world minimumweight king from 2007 to 2011 before moving up in weight. Nietes is closing in on Flash Elorde’s record as the longest-reigning Filipino world champion. Elorde was world champion for seven straight years.