UNBEATEN Merlito Sabillo fights in enemy territory when he stakes his World Boxing Organization (WBO) minimumweight title against Francisco Rodriguez in Mexico on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time).
The 30-year-old Filipino and his small entourage composed of trainer Edito Villamor and ALA boxing vice president Dennis Canete arrived in Monterey, Mexico on Wednesday from San Diego, California, where Sabillo completed the second phase of his two-month training.
The 12-round match, to be shown live on Sunday morning by ABS-CBN, will be Sabillo’s third defense of the 105-lbs title he won last year.
A native of Toboso, Negros Occidental, the Filipino (23-0-1, 12 KOs) is raring to bounce back from his last fight four months ago when he settled for a split draw with previously undefeated Carlos Buitrago of Nicaragua at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“It’s a chance for Sabillo to prove himself after his fight against Carlos Buitrago,” said Canete in a text message from Mexico on Thursday.
Still, taking on the 20-year-old Rodriguez (13-2, 9 KOs) right in his home turf won’t be easy.
“Of course, we’re not taking chances. Malakas din si Rodriguez,” Canete added.
Rodriguez’s most noted opponents include Manuel Vargas and former World Boxing Association (WBA) light-flyweight champion Roman Gonzales. Vargas had previously been beaten by Filipino world champions Donnie `Ahas’ Nietes and Nonito Donaire.
Sabillo, a southpaw, last fought outside of the country in March of last year when he scored an eighth-round technical knockout of Luis De La Rosa in Colombia to become the interim WBO minimumweight title holder.
He later became the regular champion when Moises Fuentes relinquished the crown to move up in weight.