• ‘Tiger,’ ‘King’ lead Pinoy Pride XXI

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    Two relatively new faces in Philippine pro boxing figure will hug the spotlight on Saturday, when the 21st edition of the popular boxing series Pinoy Pride unravels at the plush Solaire Resort Hotel and Casino in Pasay City.

    Undefeated World Boxing Organization (WBO) minimum weight champion Merlito “Tiger” Sabillo headlines the fully loaded card as he makes his first defense of the 105-pound crown against Colombian Jorle Estrada. Sabillo, 29, burst into the consciousness of fight fans on March 9, when he stopped Colombian Luis De la Rosa in eight rounds for the then interim WBO diadem. Sabillo was promoted to regular world champion a month later and is now all revved up to put on show before his countrymen.

    Pressure fighter Sabillo, 22-0 with 11 knockouts, is the overwhelming favorite to prevail over the cautious, counter-punching Estrada. Estrada, 17-6 with 6 knockouts, is on a four-bout winning streak but the 24-year-old challenger has never met an adversary cut in the mould of Sabillo. Estrada’s last four opponents offered a combined win-loss record of 25-48. His most recent opponent, Gustavo Cortes, showed up with an 11-27 ledger and was predictably stopped in three rounds on June 8.

    Estrada has neither the bulk nor the power to threaten Sabillo, but just the same the Colombian figures to be extra-motivated as he aims to avenge the defeat his countryman De la Rosa suffered in the hands of Sabillo.

    While all eyes are expected to be on punching dynamo Sabillo, another undefeated Filipino prospect, super flyweight (115 pounds) contender “King” Arthur Villanueva, figures to merit attention from the purists. Unlike Sabillo who relishes phone booth slugfests, Villanueva (22-0, 12 knockouts) is a smooth tactician who prefers to take out his adversaries brick-by-brick.

    One of 12 children, Villanueva initially dabbled in volleyball, chess, and tae kwon do before trying his hands in amateur boxing at age 16. The Bago City, Negros Occidental native turned pro in November 2008 and has since held the Philippine flyweight (112 pounds) crown and the Orient Pacific Boxing Federation (OPBF) super flyweight bauble. In Pinoy Pride XXI, Villanueva will be contesting the vacant WBO Asia-Pacific super flyweight championship opposite Mexican knockout artist Arturo Badillo.

    Badillo totes an imposing record of 21-4 with 19 demolitions. Out of the 19 knockout victories, 12 came within two rounds. Badillo owns a threatening right to the body-left hook to the head combination that has put to sleep many a foe. On the downside, Badillo has dropped three of his last four bouts and has been relatively inactive, having fought only once in 2012. Moreover, judging from early scouting reports, Badillo’s breadbasket appears to be as fragile as Chinese porcelain.

    Villanueva, 24, has been on a roll since sustaining a freak hand injury (he almost severed his middle finger while trying to slice an apple) in 2011. Last December, he recovered from two knockdowns to outclass Japanese Taiki Eto for the OPBF super fly crown. In his most recent outing, April 20, Villanueva displayed toughness, ring savvy and pin-point punching to decision hellacious bodypuncher Marco Demecillo in 12 rounds.

    Sabillo vs. Estrada and Villanueva vs. Badillo. Two great fights that figure to make Pinoy Pride XXI a fight card to remember.

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    For comments, the writer can be reached at atty_eduardo@yahoo.com.

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