REYMART Gaballo’s aggressiveness paid off handsomely yesterday as he carved out a split decision win over Puerto Rican veteran Emmanuel Rodriguez to clinch the interim World Boxing Council bantamweight crown at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut.
A last-minute stand-in for former world champ Nonito Donaire, who was forced to pull out after testing positive for COVID-19, Gaballo exploited the opportunity to the hilt, stalking the shifty Rodriguez from start to finish to win the nod of two of the three judges.
Don Trella and John McKaje scored it 116-112 and 115-113, respectively, for the Pinoy fighter while David Sutherland saw it 118-110 for the Puerto Rican, who looked stunned at the result after holding his rival at bay for most of the fight with his ring savvy and counter-punching.
Gaballo, 24, remained undefeated in 24 fights, spiked by 20 knockouts, joining the ranks of illustrious champs from Gen. Santos City, among them reigning World Boxing Association super welterweight kingpin Manny Pacquiao and former WBC super featherweight titlist Rolando Navarrete.
Gaballo moved closer to a possible clash with Frenchman Nordine Ouubaali, who holds the regular WBC bantamweight diadem and was originally set to fight Donaire in the headliner of the Premier Boxing Champions card but got infected by the novel coronavirus earlier.
Rodriguez, 28, absorbed his second loss in 19 fights, the other coming from Japanese “Monster” Naoya Inoue, who knocked him out in the second round when they fought for the International Boxing Federation bantamweight title on May 18, 2019 at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland.
“I am so happy. So blessed for this blessing. Sobrang saya ko po ngayon dahil di ako talaga ang nakasaad dito at ang idol kong si Nonito Donaire,” Gaballo exclaimed of his good fortune at the post-match interview. “Naging replacement lang po ako. Sobrang saya ko po at naibigay ang opportunity sa akin.”
He added he had put his palms together then looked up to the heavens and said “thank you, Lord” immediately after the outcome was announced, virtually admitting that it took him by surprise.
“It was too close but I was always (coming) forward. So I was so happy (about the result,” Gaballo, who fights out of the stable of Sanman Promotions owned by promoter Jean Claude Mananquil, said.
Showtime boxing analyst and former world super welterweight champion Raul Marquez saw it the other way around, saying: “There’s no way that Gaballo won that fight. In the worst-case scenario, you could have given him three rounds. I gave him no rounds.”
Gaballo said he was leaving his future to his handlers and expressed the desire to return to his hometown after eight months in the US, mostly in Miami, Florida under the watchful eye of Cuban trainer Moro Fernandez.
“I will leave it to my bosses, whatever plans they have for me. I need to continue my training. But I miss my hometown. I was in Miami for eight months,” he said.
Gaballo took the fight to Rodriguez from the opening bell, aiming to land the big punch that claimed 20 of his earlier victims, but his foe proved wily, dancing around the ring while occasionally connecting with right jabs and counterpunches.