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Don’t forget Gaballo

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 14, 2021 - 12:00am

It’s crowded at the top of the bantamweight division in pro boxing with four world champions actively jockeying for pole position as the ultimate king. WBC titlist Nordine Oubaali of France is set to face No. 1 contender Nonito Donaire, Jr. at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson City on May 29. Super WBA/IBF ruler Naoya Inoue of Japan will stake his belts against IBF No. 1/WBA No. 8 contender Michael Dasmarinas in the Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas on June 19. WBO titleholder JohnRiel Casimero will battle regular WBA champion Guillermo Rigondeaux of Cuba somewhere in the US on Aug. 14. It’s interesting that in all three fights, Filipinos are involved.

But while the four gatekeepers are lined up for action, interim WBC champion Reymart Gaballo – another Filipino – is in limbo. Gaballo, 24, won the vacant interim WBC crown via a split 12-round decision over Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez in Uncasville last December. Rodriguez, crying foul, appealed for an overturn of the verdict and the WBC ordered a rematch. Why the rematch is highly questionable. Gaballo was the aggressor from start to finish, throwing more power shots, 323-181 and more total punches, 520-372. Rodriguez resorted to hit-and-run tactics and never dared to engage. MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons said nobody would pay to watch a rematch because Rodriguez is more suited on a track oval than in a ring. Despite the WBC’s order, no promoter is willing to put up good money for a losing proposition. That leaves Gaballo wondering what to do next.

Gaballo trained in Miami for nine months with Cuban Moro Fernandez last year and is now back in General Santos City. “We’re working out things,” said Gibbons yesterday. “Nothing is set at the moment for Gaballo, he’s getting his US visa re-issued and taking care of things.” Gaballo’s manager J. C. Manangquil said relinquishing the interim championship is out of the question. “We won’t let the belt be stripped,” he said. “We’re waiting for advice from Sir Sean and PBC (Premier Boxing Champions). Reymart will fight anyone.” If a promoter steps up to stage a rematch with Rodriguez, Gaballo won’t back down.

Since Gaballo is the interim WBC champion, he should be first in the queue to challenge the winner of the coming Oubaali-Donaire fight. Manangquil predicted Donaire will knock out the Frenchman. “We really don’t want to fight a fellow Filipino,” said Manangquil. “But if that’s the path for the regular world title, then we have to fight.” Manangquil said Gaballo, who has a record of 24-0, with 20 KOs, is ripe for a title crack. “He fights like Erik Morales but has his own style,” noted Manangquil. Gaballo, a bachelor, packs devastating power in both hands with the left hook and right straight his most lethal weapons. He’s 5-6 with a 68-inch wingspan and his length is unusual for a bantamweight.

In the Feb. 11, 2021, issue of the London weekly magazine Boxing News, Gaballo is profiled by writer Paul Wheeler. Here are highlight quotes from Gaballo: “Manny Pacquiao is my favorite fighter of all time. Aside from being a fellow Filipino, I also like him for his toughness, hard-working attitude and dedication to the sport of boxing. My best attribute is I’m always willing to listen and learn, in order to improve. My training tip is push yourself to your limits and be the best version of yourself during every session. If I wasn’t a boxer, I’d like to be a basketball player. Kobe Bryant was always one of my idols.

“I cried tears of happiness when I won over Rodriguez. It was the best moment of my career. It was a tough fight but I gave it everything I had and all of my hard work paid off. The best advice I’ve ever received was keep your feet on the ground, be humble and always trust in God. I may be a fighter but in reality, I’m a very quiet person. I’m always thinking. I’m a thinker rather than a talker.” Sooner or later, Gaballo will get his chance to stake his claim as an undisputed world champion.

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