Friday, March 24, 2023  |


Sabillo-Estrada title bout may usher in casino era for Philippines boxing


MANILA, Philippines – WBO strawweight titleholder Merlito Sabillo will make his first title defense on July 6 against Jorle Estrada of Colombia, with the newly-constructed Solaire Resort and Casino in Manila as the frontrunner to host the event, said ALA Promotions president Michael Aldeguer. Aldeguer says that negotiations are still underway with the venue, but that Jorle’s camp has “agreed in principle” to the fight.

Sabillo (21-0, 11 knockouts) won the title in March when he upset Luis De la Rosa in Colombia on short notice to win the interim title before being bumped up to full champion when Moises Fuentes vacated to move up to 108 pounds. The Bacolod City, Philippines native is 29 and turned pro in 2008. Jorle (16-6, 5 KOs) of San Pelayo, Colombia, has fought and lost to title challengers Pedro Guevara and Carlos Velarde, but has only beaten two opponents with winning records.

Unbeaten junior bantamweight contender Arthur Villanueva (21-0, 11 KOs) will fight in the co-featured bout, said Aldeguer. Villanueva, 24, of Bacolod City, is rated no. 9 by The Ring at 115 pounds. Fan favorite AJ Banal (28-2-1, 20 KOs) will also be in action, returning to the ring for the first time since his devastating title loss to Pungluang Sor Singyu in October.

If the deal pushes through, it would mark the first boxing event to take place at Solaire, which is one of four casino projects currently underway in what is being dubbed “Entertainment City” along Manila Bay. Pointing to the casino deals already in place in Macau and Singapore, Aldeguer believes that boxing is on a boom in Asia and that the Philippines is in a position to benefit from it.

“People are used to seeing Las Vegas as the place to look at for boxing, but Asia is the place people are looking at,” said Aldeguer. “With Top Rank looking at Asia, they’ve seen the potential here. Cebu is the capital of boxing in the Philippines, but Manila is the capital of the Philippines. The major sponsors are here, and so are the networks.”

Aldeguer says that Top Rank, which is promoting an event in Macau on July 27 featuring ALA fighters Milan Melindo and Genesis Servania, reached out to them regarding junior welterweight Jason Pagara (31-2, 19 KOs) for an upcoming show in Singapore. Bob Arum of Top Rank has also told that he is looking at hosting events in Entertainment City in the future. (

Solaire, which opened in March, can currently seat only seat a few thousand in its ballroom. Aldeguer says that the Solaire group has told him they will begin construction on an arena next year, which will have the potential to seat 6000-7000.



Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to The Ring magazine and GMA News. He can be reached at [email protected]. An archive of his work can be found at Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.