CEBU, Philippines - Undefeated ALA Boxing Gym stalwart Merlito "Tiger" Sabillo said the interim WBO minimumweight title he won recently in Colombia now serves as his chief driving force to train even harder and fight even tougher.
"I'm very happy to have won this WBO belt. I thank God for giving me the courage to overcome the toughest fight of my career," said Sabillo in a visit to The Freeman office shortly after his return to Cebu yesterday afternoon.
"It motivates me to train even harder and give my best shot at all times to prove that I deserved to be a world champion."
"I know that with this world championship comes a big responsibility. I have to strive harder and prepare at all times so that I will be ready whenever and wherever they will let me fight next," he added.
So impressed the Colombian fans were that they gave Sabillo a standing ovation after his splendid performance.
"Sabillo really had a great showing. It was an action-packed, give-and-take battle and Sabillo was brave enough to trade power punches with De la Rosa to the delight of the very appreciative crowd," said ALA chief trainer Edito Villamor.
"I strongly felt beforehand that Sabillo will take home the belt because he's a positive thinker. His mind-set is really to win the title and I'm glad he did it in an impressive manner," added Villamor.
Sabillo can now be considered a 'late-bloomer now in full bloom'. He turned only pro at the age of 24, which is a bit old to start a professional career, but after five years of hardwork and perservance, Sabillo finally rose in the ranks among ALA Gym's elite fighters and he did it in style - winning a world title in a hostile territory fighting for the first time outside of the country.
In a masterful display of punching savvy, Sabillo stopped Colombia's hometown idol Luis de la Rosa in round eight of a scheduled 12-rounder to capture the interim WBO 105-pound rown last Sunday at the Coliseo Mario De Leon Cerete in Cordoba, Colombia.
It was a historic triumph for Sabillo as it marks for the first time that two boxers under the aegis of Cebu's fabled ALA Stable reign as world champions at the same period of time. The other one is Sabillo's fellow Negrense in WBO light flyweight titlist Donnie "Ahas" Nietes. Sabillo comes from the town of Toboso in Negros Occidental, while Nietes hails from Murcia, just three kilometers away from Bacolod.
Aside from stretching his clean record to 21-0 now spiked with 11KOs, the 29-year-old Sabillo also earned a mandatory shot at reigning WBO 105-pound titlist Moises Fuentes of Mexico. Should Fuentes decide to stay in the light flyweight division where he failed to snatch the crown following a controversial majority draw with Nietes last March 2 at the Waterfront-Cebu City Hotel and Casino, Sabillo automatically becomes the regular champion.
"It's every boxer's dream to become a world champion. Since the very first day I stepped in the threshold of boxing, I put that dream in my heart and in my mind. I can't really describe what I feel now that I was able to attain my goal," said the 29-year-old Sabillo.
"Above anything else, I thank God for all the blessings that come my way. My profound gratitude also to my ALA family and my fellow boxers. I wouldn't be here without their whole-hearted support. I also would like to thank all those who prayed for my success," he added.
Like any other boxers, Sabillo boxes his way to get his family out of wrenching poverty. Her mother already passed away, while his father's income as a construction worker couldn't meet both their ends.
"I've tried several sports such as basketball, bmx and karate, but I found boxing as my only option where I could extend help to my family financially most especially if you will be given a chance to fight abroad where income is good," said Sabillo.
Pressed on his formula to success worth emulating for by the aspiring boxers who want to follow in his footsteps, Sabillo quickly answered:"self-discipline, hard training, dedication and above all, belief in the power of prayers." (FREEMAN)