On Saturday night, the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Philippines, will host "Filipinos kontra Latinos" – five boxing matches that will pit members of two of the predominant ethnicities in the sport.
It is the 23rd installment of a series of fight nights called “Pinoy Power” (Pinoy is a national nickname derived from the last four letters in “Filipino”) put together by the ALA Boxing Group.
A disproportionate amount of professional fighters come from the Philippines and the Caribbean basin. Even in an ethnically diverse country like the U.S., according to most estimates, around 90 percent of all boxers are either black or Hispanic. In such a Balkanized pastime, it shouldn’t be too surprising when something like “Filipinos kontra Latinos” comes along.
The card features as its main event Donnie Nietes, 31, defending his WBO light-flyweight title against Mexico’s Sammy Gutierrez, a not terribly distinguished challenger (33-9-2). Nietes (31-1-4) has referred to the fight as “a tune up” for a potential rematch with another Mexican, Moises Fuentes, who battled him to a draw in March. Even so, Gutierrez, 27, told reporters, “I respect Nietes, but I would like to bring the crown back to Mexico.”
Another belt will be on the line in the fight between Merlito Sabillo,29, the WBO minimum weight champ, and Nicaragua’s Carlos Buitrago. Both fighters are undefeated – Sabillo is 23-0 with 12 knockouts, and Buitrago 27-0 with 16 KOs.
The other three bouts include flyweights Milan Melindo (29-1) versus José Alfredo Rodríguez (29-2) of Mexico, super-bantamweights A.J. Banal (29-2-1) against Lucian González (16-7-2) of Puerto Rico, and light welterweights Jason Pagara (31-2) versus Vladimir Baez (19-1-2) of the Dominican Republic.
In some ways, ALA Boxing is stepping up in weight class for the event, the first it has held in the greater Manila area in years. (The company is based in Cebu City, the fifth-largest in the country.) It also lags behind Manny Pacquiao's MP Promotions in terms of staging fights.
And if the deck seems a bit stacked against the Latinos, well that’s probably part of the point. It is “Pinoy Power,” after all, not “Latino Power.”
Not that you would know that from ALA president Michael Aldeguer, recently quoted in the Manila Times, “ALA wants to produce world champions. It is getting more competitive in every fight, so I’m telling [the Filipino fighters] to train harder.”