Reymart Gaballo is a Filipino banger to get excited about
You’d have to be among the most dedicated of followers of the Southeast Asian boxing scene to be familiar with Reymart Gaballo, at this point. His fights have taken place primarily in small gyms which double as basketball courts and in malls in General Santos City.
His two most recent bouts in Mexico and Hawaii were off-TV against nobody anyone had ever heard of in venues you’ll probably never visit.
His profile in the sport could be changing soon, provided he comes out on top this Friday, March 23, when he faces fellow unbeaten fighter Stephon Young for the “interim” WBA bantamweight title at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Though the fight is not for one of the belts actually recognized as a legitimate world title, it’ll be Gaballo’s first time to show American audiences, however limited by a lack of TV coverage, what he can do against a credible opponent.
“I’m not upset that people don’t know me because I haven’t done anything yet, so that’s normal. In time people will know me,” said the 21-year-old Gaballo (18-0, 16 knockouts) in his native Bisaya language, translated through his Philippine-based promoter Jim Claude Manangquil.
Gaballo’s early boxing education was as simple as could be. Instead of a punching bag, Gaballo punched a sand-filled sack that he hung up at his grandfather’s home in the mountains of Polomolok. His family moved to GenSan when his father found work there as a truck driver, and he began training at the Sanman Gym at age 13.
He only had about 30 amateur fights but Manangquil was convinced early on that Gaballo had the raw physical attributes to be a solid pro.
“I had a fighter named Rey Laspinas; we were watching (Gaballo) train and do sparring when he was 15. He said, ‘Boy, this guy can box. He’s really sharp and strong. Whoever manages this guy will be super-lucky.’ For a veteran boxer to say that, it’s crazy,” said Manangquil.
Gaballo turned pro at age 17 and set out scoring decisive knockouts against a slew of overmatched opponents. What makes him someone to watch isn’t whom he has knocked out but how he’s knocked them out: early, one-punch finishes with right hands, both from straight shots and uppercuts, thrown with speed and aggression.
Filipino featherweight Reymart Gaballo (16-0, 14KO) KOs Jerson Luzarito cold in round two last night pic.twitter.com/HXagLlSneu
— Ryan Songalia (@ryansongalia) December 5, 2016
Where he’s gotten a great deal of his experience has been in the gym, working with fighters like Zou Shiming and Randy Petalcorin in GenSan, and traveling to Japan to spar with world champions Shinsuke Yamanaka and Naoya Inoue. He says Inoue hit the hardest of anyone he’s been in the ring with by far, likening his power to his lightweight stablemate Harmonito Dela Torre, which taught him some important lessons.
“Patience and how to protect yourself too. They can hit and they can move quick. Before I’m used to beating up guys but those other guys, maybe they’ll hit you up more than you hit them,” said Gaballo.
Last year, he, Dela Torre and Mike Plania relocated to Miami to train under Osmiri “Moro” Fernandez and signed with Florida-based promotional company Heavyweight Factory. He’s since learned enough English to tell you that he doesn’t speak English, and has expanded his wardrobe by shopping at bargain clothing store Ross.
He’s also been schooled to the technical aspects of the sport by sparring with fighters like Guillermo Rigondeaux, Ramal Amanov and Ismael Barroso (who is also his roommate).
“I see a very bright future for Gaballo. He has a lot of experience for only being 20 years old. He has more experience than a lot of 20-year-old fighters,” said Fernandez, a Cuban-born coach who operates Moro’s Gym.
“He already has four tips of the star and, on the 23rd is when he’ll get his fifth tip, and that’s when he will become a star in boxing.”
There are plenty of questions which remain about Gaballo, like how well he can take a punch, or what happens when he fights past the sixth round for the first time, or whether he can effectively cut off a boxer to land his heavy punches.
I can assure you that he’s one of the toughest fighters in his weight class that I’ve seen,” said Fernandez. “The way he trains, he can carry the fight for as many rounds as he needs.”
Young (17-0-3, 7 KOs) is several steps above Gaballo victims like Marlon Arcilla and Jerson Luzarito. The 29-year-old southpaw from St. Louis, Missouri, was a silver medalist at the 2011 National Golden Gloves and made it to the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympic Trials.
He has fought a much higher caliber of opposition since turning pro seven years ago, and says he’s been toughened to the sport in draws against Nikolai Potapov and Antonio Nieves, fights which took place on their promoter’s cards that he believes he should have won.
“I feel he’s not ready yet and that will show next Friday,” Young, who is also signed with Heavyweight Factory and trains in Miami, said in a press release. Young tells RingTV.com that he has “no concerns” over Gaballo’s punching power, and that Gaballo was rushed into this fight because there was a title opportunity.
“If anything, he’s strong, but who’s to say that he’s as strong as what his record is? He hasn’t fought anyone,” said Young.
Gaballo says he’s ready for however long the fight lasts, and however Young wants to fight.
“I heard a lot of Stephon Young’s talk. I won’t talk; I’ll just listen and I’ll let my fighting do the talking,” said Gaballo.
“I’ve seen him fight and I’m confident I can beat him.”
The lack of TV exposure and media mileage in the southern Philippines has kept Gaballo under wraps for all this time but Manangquil believes the secret will be out after this fight.
“After this Friday night, they’ll know Gaballo’s name.”
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at [email protected].
You can order the current issue, which is on newsstands, or back issues from our subscribe page.