Aldeguer shocked by Sabillo loss
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - March 26, 2014 - 12:00am

ALA Promotions president Michael Aldeguer said the other day he was shocked at the way Merlito Sabillo lost his WBO minimumweight title to Mexico’s Francisco Rodriguez in Monterrey last weekend and although there is a rematch clause with two options, a lot of soul-searching will be done before even considering a return bout.

Sabillo is expected to fly in from San Diego today and Aldeguer said he will sit down with the crestfallen fighter soon to discuss the future. Trainer Edito Villamor, Michael Domingo and Dr. Ed de la Vega worked Sabillo’s corner in his third title defense against Rodriguez in the Mexican’s hometown.

It was Villamor who signaled to referee Eddie Claudio to halt the carnage at 1:50 of the 10th round after Rodriguez unleashed a barrage of eight unanswered blows, leaving Sabillo in a state of helplessness. Before the start of the round, Villamor told the previously unbeaten Sabillo he needed a knockout to retain the crown. Sabillo, whose mouth was bloodied in the second round, couldn’t muster enough strength for a last ditch stand.

“Hard to explain,” said Aldeguer. “There was nothing Merlito could do. He was in good condition. I’m really speechless. He was prepared to slug it out or box every round, whatever would work. They scouted Rodriguez and knew he’s a versatile fighter. They studied the tape of Rodriguez’ loss to (Roman) Gonzalez and knew he could punch. It wasn’t like they didn’t know what to expect.”

Aldeguer said power is something you can’t measure from film until you feel it in the ring. “Everyone knew Rodriguez is tough but who could tell how strong he really is?” continued Aldeguer. “Rodriguez was too strong. He took everything Merlito threw. He was relentless from the opening round. He fought with no fear. I’m actually puzzled at the way it turned out. I didn’t expect Merlito to be dominated. Rodriguez was a punching machine.”

Rodriguez, 20, jumped on Sabillo from the onset, banging the body, and in the second round, scored a knockdown after landing combinations to the head. Sabillo, 30, was pushed down late in the second round and Claudio ruled it a slip. In the third, Rodriguez stepped up his attack and Sabillo fought defensively, backtracking to avoid the Mexican’s rushes. Occasionally, Sabillo poked Rodriguez with a right uppercut but couldn’t sustain a consistent assault.

“You could see Merlito was getting hurt with the body shots,” said Aldeguer. “He was wincing in pain. It’s difficult to comprehend what happened especially since Merlito trained hard for the fight. Fighting in Rodriguez’ hometown was a risk but we felt it would be good for Merlito’s career. He’s fought overseas before. You remember he went to Colombia and knocked out Luis de la Rosa. We thought it was time to bring Merlito out in the open and test the international waters. We negotiated two options because we knew it would be a tough fight.”

Former WBC secretary-general Eduardo Lamazon scored it a shutout up to the round of the stoppage. Former world champions Marco Antonio Barrera and Julio Cesar Chavez, providing commentary for TV, lauded Sabillo for his big heart as he endured tremendous punishment. Rodriguez said his sacrifice of leaving his family for a month to train for Sabillo paid off. Winning the world title in his hometown was particularly special, he added.

Aldeguer admitted that he negotiated the Sabillo fight with Zanfer Promotions of Mexico in a package that involved staging WBO lightflyweight champion Donnie Nietes’ title defense against Moises Fuentes at the Mall of Asia Arena on May 10. In March last year, Nietes and Fuentes fought to a majority 12-round draw in Cebu and the Mexican initially said he would never see action in the Philippines again. Fuentes insisted he deserved the decision but two neutral judges Adalaide Byrd and Pat Russell had it even, 114-114. The third judge Danrex Tapdasan scored it for Nietes, 115-113.

Fuentes eventually agreed to fight Nietes here but Zanfer Promotions’ Fernando Beltran got a concession from Aldeguer to send Sabillo to Monterrey for his defense against Rodriguez in a trade. There is no return clause in the Nietes-Fuentes rematch because the Mexican is a mandatory challenger.

Aldeguer called Nietes’ next defense his defining moment. “Right now, Donnie is chasing Flash Elorde’s record of over seven years reigning as world champion without interruption,” said Aldeguer. “If he beats Fuentes, he keeps his streak alive. Not too many fighters can ever get to that level where there is a chance to break the record. Donnie is thinking of moving up to flyweight but at the moment, his focus is Fuentes. He’s not looking beyond Fuentes.”

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