MANILA, Philippines - Merlito Sabillo, who turned pro when he was 24, is now a world boxing champion at 29.
“I’m a late bloomer in boxing,” said the newly crowned WBO mini-flyweight champion as he graced yesterday’s PSA Forum at Shakey’s Malate.
But he said it doesn’t mean he can’t stay on top of his division.
Sabillo arrived at the forum with his trainer Michael Domingo, an ex-pro, ALA Promotions vice president Dennis Cañete and his colorful WBO belt kept in an aluminum case.
Last March 9, he knocked out Colombian Luis dela Rosa in the eighth round at the Coliseo Mario de León in Cerete, Colombia. It was a very successful debut on foreign soil.
Then Moises Fuentes of Mexico moved up in weight and vacated the crown. For winning his interim bout with Dela Rosa, the Filipino was recently installed as new champion by the WBO.
Sabillo thus joined WBO minimum-weight champion Donnie Nietes and IBF light-fly king Johnriel Casimero in the depleted list of Filipino world champions.
Sabillo, undefeated as a pro, is aware of the fact that over the past few months the Philippines lost world titles once held by Manny Pacquiao, Brian Viloria and Nonito Donaire.
The southpaw with an impressive record of 21 wins with 11 knockouts, two of them coming in the first round, said he will use it as his motivation.
“I will focus harder in training so I can keep my title,” said the pride of Negros Occidental.
“It’s a little sad to see them lose. But that’s sports. You win some and you lose some,” added Sabillo, who’s now being lined up for a voluntary defense of his title.
Cañete said it’s being scheduled for June 29 in Bacolod City.
“We are just waiting for the WBO approval for his voluntary defense before we choose an opponent. But it will be among the top 10 in the mini-flyweight class,” said Cañete.
Sabillo sent Dela Rosa down in the seventh round of the brutal and exciting contest then finished him off in the 2:52 mark of the next round.
“It was an exciting bout and even WBO president Paco Valcarcel was impressed and said Sabillo can become a great champion,” said the ALA Promotions official.
Sabillo is not wasting any time. He’s now into light training and next week things will turn more serious.
“I will devote all my time in training,” said the new world champion.