by Ronnie Nathanielsz
It proved to be a night of knockouts both in the ring and outside as “Pinoy Pride XXI” showcased the rising young stars of Philippine boxing Saturday.
The Solaire Resort and Casino was in itself a knockout of a venue, drawing gasps of admiration laced with more than a touch of pride as Filipino fight fans savored the classy elegance of a venue that enhanced the quality of the “When Worlds Collide” fight card of ALA Promotions in cooperation with the giant broadcast network ABS-CBN.
Former Bacolod City street fighter Merlito “Tiger” Sabillo prowled and stalked Colombian challenger Jorlie Estrada with vicious body shots who, feeling the power of the southpaw world champion was in retreat and survival mode from the opening round when Sabillo ripped him.
Eager to score a knockout the “Tiger” appeared tense until his corner-men told him to relax and work to the body, in the process slowing down the Colombian who had predicted he would win by a 7th round knockout.
Although Estrada tried up the tempo of his counter-attack, the punches were few and far between and obviously lacked sting as Sabillo walked through them.
In the 9th round Sabillo pounced on the hapless Colombian and caught him with a thunderous left hook to the ribs that sent Estrada crumbling to the canvas, grabbing his battered ribs and spitting out his mouthpiece before lying flat on his back to be counted out at 1:09 of the round by referee Raul Caiz Jr who had earlier cautioned Estrada for what looked like a sneaky use of his elbow.
It was Sabillo’s first defense of the title he won in Colombia against fancied Luis De La Rosa with an 8th round TKO last March and improved his unbeaten record to 22-0 with 12 knockouts.
In the most competitive fight of the evening OPBF super flyweight champion “King” Arthur Villanueva added the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title to his trophy room with a 4th round TKO of Mexican knockout artist Arturo Badillo.
Villanueva, regarded as a genuine prospect from among a new generation of ALA fighters, used his stinging jab and crisp one-two combinations that snapped the head of Badillo back.
Badillo tried to turn the fight into a brawl and came charging forward in the second round which resulted in an accidental clash of heads which caused a cut on the Mexican’s scalp.
Another accidental clash of heads in the third round halted the action once again but the ring doctor after examining the cut ruled the fight could continue.
Showing glimpses of his new-found punching power Villanueva was not afraid to engage the power-punching Badillo and continued to tag him with rapid-fire combinations while moving in and out, quickly.
Villanueva, his confidence growing, nailed Badillo with a stinging jab and a right straight that dropped the Mexican and after Badillo beat the count Villanueva launched a barrage of punches as he trapped the Mexican on the ropes.
Badillo tried to frantically fight his way out of trouble but King Arthur cracked his opponent with a flurry of punches as referee Danrex Tapdasan who was keeping a close eye on the action waved it off much to the relief of Badillo at 2:03 of the fourth round.
Two-time title challenger AJ ‘Bazooka’ Banal hammered Mexico’s Alfonso Gomez into submission to win by a 2nd round TKO and although he was disappointed the fight didn’t last longer so he could show the fans he’s back after a painful setback in his world title bid against Thailand’s Pungluang Sor Singyu, Banal was pleased with his performance and so were the fans who applauded his impressive win as Gomez said he had had enough at the end of the second round and quit.
International referee Bruce McTavish deducted two points from Gomez when he wrestled Banal to the canvas and then deliberately hit him with a couple of punches after an opening round clash of heads saw Gomez suffer a cut on his right eyebrow and Banal on his scalp.