Emmanuel Rodriguez should have ended a lengthy layoff and his 2020 campaign on a high note.
It instead concluded in despair along with arguably one of the worst in-ring decisions of the year.
Reymart Gaballo prevailed over Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez in their interim title fight Saturday evening at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The unbeaten contender from General Santos City, Philippines prevailed by split decision in a verdict that was not at all well received by the viewing audience or the Showtime broadcast team.
Judge David Sutherland had the contest 118-110 in favor of Rodriguez. Judges Don Trella and John McKaie saw another fight entirely, scoring the bout 116-112 and 115-113, respectively in favor of Gaballo.
A 19-month ring absence didn’t prevent Rodriguez from jumping out to a strong start. The former bantamweight titlist from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico connected with several clean power shots upstairs as Gaballo struggled to settle into a rhythm in the opening round.
Gaballo managed to dial in his jab in round two, while Rodriguez did his best to remain outside of the Filipino’s punching range. Gaballo tested his opponent’s chin with a right hand over the top of Rodriguez’s guard.
The pace picked up early in round three, with Gaballo going on the attack. The unbeaten Filipino connected with a left uppercut which Rodriguez took well but to which he didn’t immediately respond.
Rodriguez was forced to contend with a developing cut over his left eye but managed to land the best punch of round four. A spirited exchange on the inside saw Rodriguez connect with a left hook, only to be met with an inadvertent forearm by Gaballo. Rodriguez responded with a right hand which knocked Gaballo off balance, nearly touching his glove to the canvas and stumbling into the ropes before regaining his composure.
Gaballo connected with a one-two combination to drive Rodriguez backwards midway through round five. Rodriguez shook off the shots, coming back later in the frame with several right hands along with a left hook-right hand combo which caused Gaballo to briefly wobble.
Rodriguez continued to put together his punches in closing out a strong first half. Gaballo grew in confidence with his right hand in round seven, though still struggling to time his crafty foe. Rodriguez remained behind a tight guard, often having a response for anything Gaballo had to offer and most often with his sharp right hand.
Gaballo tried in vain to get his offense untracked in round eight. A left hook by the unbeaten Filipino caught the attention of Rodriguez, who adjusted and quickly clinched. An exchange on the inside saw Rodriguez connect with a counter left hand which snapped back Gaballo’s head.
A competitive round nine prompted a reminder from Rodriguez’s world class trainer, Freddie Trinidad to make sure to continue to double up on Gaballo’s connects and beat him to the punch. The former titlist heeded that advice in round ten, landing a power jab which briefly wobbled Gaballo. Rodriguez followed with a left hook over the top, with Gaballo quickly recovering and firing his jab in attempting to work his way inside.
The championship rounds didn’t see any shift in momentum or strategy, which didn’t at all benefit Gaballo. Sorely lacking was a sense of urgency, including an oddly silent minute in between rounds in the absence of his corner offering any strategy that would lead to his closing the show.
On the opposite side, Rodriguez was encouraged to stick with what was working throughout the fight. The 28-year old Boricua complied, boxing smartly and moving around the ring as Gaballo plodded forward. Both fighters connected with straight shots just before the bell.
As it turned out, silence was golden for Gaballo who picks up the biggest win of his career. Barring a well-warranted protest, the unbeaten bantamweight is now in line for a shot at reigning bantamweight titlist Nordine Oubaali (17-0, 12KOs)—the original headliner who fell out due to COVID-19.
Rodriguez (19-2, 12KOs) replaced Oubaali in the fight, originally planning to face former four-division titlist Nonito Donaire who was also removed from the show due to COVID and replaced by Gaballo.
Rodriguez has now suffered two defeats and a lot of heartbreak in between. The Puerto Rican hadn’t fought since a 2nd round knockout to Naoya Inoue in their World Boxing Super Series semifinal last May, which also ended his brief title reign.
The numbers were with Rodriguez, who landed 109-of-372 punches for a 29% connect rate. Gaballo was the busier fighter, throwing 520 but landing just 93 punches for a 18% rate.
The activity was enough to sell two of the three judges and thus allow Gaballo to remain unbeaten and in line for his first career title fight.
Noel Galang – Kamao TV