By Jake Donovan
Francisco Rodriguez Jr. had the benefit of hometown advantage, but his 10th round stoppage win over previously unbeaten Merlito Sabillo in Monterrey still serves as one of the biggest shockers of the year to this point.
A pair of knockdowns in round two set the tone for Rodriguez Jr., whose lone notable fight prior to Saturday was a knockout loss to former two-divison champ Roman 'Chocolatito' Gonzalez last October. In his first title challenge, Rodriguez Jr. looked every bit the world beater, setting a furious pace from the opening bell and never allowing Sabillo a chance to rally.
The first signs of a major upset came late in round one. Rodriguez Jr. pinned Sabillo in a corner, scoring with straight combination punching. The burst of power shots paved the way for the biggest round of his career, with a series of right hands producing two knockdowns in the round, with Sabillo down a third time in a sequence waved off as a slip.
As the rounds wore on, Sabillo sensed that it wasn't going to be his night. Fortunate to have escaped with his title still intact in a draw with Carlos Buitrago in his fight, the visiting Filipino reached a point where going the full 12 rounds and managing a competitive performance would become his moral victory.
Rodriguez Jr. never gave him the satisfaction.
If there were any rounds to reward the unbeaten titlist, they would have come in the fourth and fifth frames. Either round could have been offered as a sympathy feel, though it can be entirely argued that Rodriguez managed a clean sweep throughout the contest.
The shift in power returned in the middle portion of the fight, with Rodriguez Jr. applying damage round after round. Sabillo bravely absorbed, proudly cllimbing off of his stool to answer the call every time the bell sounded to begin a new round.
Rodriguez Jr. poured it on in round ten, to the point where referee Eddie Claudio believed Sabillo was no longer in a position to defend himself. The third man stopped the contest, with barely a mild protest offered from the now dethroned titlist.
The official time was 1:50 of round ten.
Rodriguez Jr. advances to 14-2 (10KO) in scoring by far the biggest win of his career. Sabillo heads to the Philippines with his first official loss, falling to 23-1-1 (12KO).
Rodriguez Jr's demolition of Sabillo wasn't the only upset of the night. Vivian Harris, less than a month after being medically disqualified from fighting on a card in England, picked up his third straight win with a split decision over Jorge Paez Jr.
Scores were 96-94 (twice) for Harris and 96-94 Paez Jr. in their 10-round welterweight fight.
Writer's note: Harris-Paez Jr. was not aired in the United States. Word of the result came directly from Zanfer Promotion's twitter feed.
The bout was originally budgeted as the evening's main event, with Paez Jr. scheduled to face Erik Morales in what was supposed to be the Mexican legend's farewell fight. That idea was the driving force behind this fight date, but a change of plans came about after Morales withdrew due to a hand injury that could end his career without the benefit of one last ring appearance.
Several changes later, Harris was brought in as the replacement opponent in a fight that suddenly became an intended showcase for Paez Jr.
Those plans miserably backfired, sadly against a fighter whom many called for his retirement. At one point going eight fights without a win, Harris has long ago seen his best days. A three-fight win streak has since followed, although the 35-year old former 140 lb. titlist isn't anywhere close to old form. Even at his best, stamina and punch resistance were a major concern.
A move up in weight has benefitted the transplanted Guyanian, who for the past two decades has called Brooklyn home. The 5'11" boxer-puncher looked far too lean during his years in the 140 lb. division, appearing a bit more filled out at welterweight, even if still a shell of his former self.
Nevertheless, the win advances Harris' record to 32-9-2 (19KO).
Paez Jr. snaps a 10-fight win streak with the loss, as his record now dips to 37-5-1 (22KO).
Sergio Puente turned back a stiff challenge from Emanuel Lopez to escape with a split decision in their televised opener. The action was spirited througout their eight-round super featherweight affair, well reflected in the final scores.
Lopez (9-3, 1KO) managed a 77-75 edge on one card, but was overruled by scores of 78-74 and 77-75 in favor of Puente, who improves to 14-0 (5KO).
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox