MERLITO Sabillo has hardly warmed up his seat as new World Boxing Organization (WBO) minimumweight champion yet he’s already booked for his first title defense two months from now.
One of only three remaining Filipino world boxing champions, the 29-year-old pride of Toboso, Negros Occidental is set for a June 29 ring return at the University of St. La Salle Bacolod gym against a still undetermined opponent who is among the top 10 contenders in the current WBO rankings.
Sabillo knocked out Colombian Luis dela Rosa in the eighth round of their title fight last March 9 at the Coliseo Mario de Leon in Cerete, Colombia - the first overseas fight for the Filipino.
The 12-round bout was for the WBO interim title, but after regular champion Moises Fuentes of Mexico decided to move up in weight and vacate the crown, the Puerto Rico-based boxing body decided to install Sabillo as the new champion.
Now he’s ready to put his title belt on the line.
“We are 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 ALA Promotions vice president Dennis Canete in the weekly PSA Forum at Shakey’s Malate, where he appeared along with the newly-crowned world champion and trainer Michael Domingo.
Sabillo has an impressive record of 21-0, including 11 KOs. De La Rosa (21-2, 12 KOs) was his toughest opponent so far and he passed the test with flying colors, knocking out the Colombian at the 2:52 mark of the eight round.
“It was an exciting bout and even WBO president Paco Valcarcel was impressed and said Sabillo can become a great champion,” said Canete.
Sabillo, a self-confessed latebloomer in boxing as he turned pro at the age of 24, said he is determined to stay on top of the mini-flyweight division.
“I will focus hard in training so I can keep my title,” said Sabillo, one of the rising stars of the famed boxing stable of ALA gym in Cebu.
He is also aware of the fact the country had just lost three world titles following successive losses by Manny Pacquiao, Brian Viloria, and Nonito Donaire Jr.
He wants to use this as motivation.
“It’s a little sad to see them lose. But that’s sports. You win some and you lose some,” said Sabillo, who along with Donnie Nietes (WBO light-flyweight) and Johnriel Casimero (IBF light-fly) are the remaining Filipino world champions.