REYMART Gaballo pulled off a stunning split decision win over Emmanuel Rodriguez and became the interim World Boxing Council (WBC) bantamweight champion on Sunday (Manila time).
The unbeaten Filipino brought the fight to Rodriguez for most of the 12-round bout, which nonetheless the Puerto Rican appeared to control.
But the judges saw it otherwise as two of them had Gaballo winning at the end by scores of 116-112 and 115-113. A third judge saw Rodriguez the clear winner, 118-110.
Gaballo, 24, was considered a longshot to beat the 28-year-old former International Boxing Federation (IBF) bantamweight champion, after coming in as a last-minute replacement for fellow Filipino Nonito Donaire Jr, who was bumped off after testing positive for COVID-19.
But the native of Polomolok, South Cotabato proved that he belonged even after a slow start to the title fight held at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
“I am very happy and blessed to win the belt,” said Gaballo. “I was always moving forward and controlling the pace, so I though it was a close fight that either of us could have won.”
Gaballo, fighting out of Sanman Promotions, improved to 24-0 with 20 KOs and could face ‘champion in recess’ Nordine Oubaali for the regular WBC 118-lb. belt.
Oubaali was originally set to defend his crown against Donaire, but also contracted COVID-19. That led to Rodriguez taking his spot in the title bout.
Rodriguez suffered a second straight loss after a second round knockout against unified champion Naoya Inoue last year.