You’d be excused if you get thumped on the names Merlito Sabillo and Jorle Estrada. Not a lot of people know who they are, but if the cards fall right, Sabillo and Estrada might end up becoming major figures on what could be a watershed moment for Pagcor’s Entertainment City.
Sabillo and Estrada are boxers. More specifically, the former, a Filipino, is the WBO strawweight titleholder and the latter, a Colombian, is the fighter challenging for the title. Even by boxing standards, the two are still obscure names, eons away from the recognized faces of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.
Hell, boxing purists might even have a hard time recognizing the two; that’s how far back into the shadows they are.
But ALA Promotions is putting the two together in the same ring on July 6, and according to Ryan Songalia of The Ring, the venue that’s considered the favorite to land the fight is Solaire Manila.
That’s a pretty big deal, especially if the Philippines is serious about challenging Macau and Singapore as a premier casino and entertainment destination in the region.
Should the deal with Solaire push through, it would mark the first boxing event to take place at the integrated resort and casino, a landmark occasion that could be a prelude for bigger sports and entertainment opportunities that could be held in Entertainment City in the future.
In the bigger scheme of things, this isn’t so much about the fight as it is showing everybody that the Philippines is ready to showcase its new gaming facilities to an international audience and tie it up with sports and entertainment events. It’s the Las Vegas formula, only it’s being done by a country with enormous ambitions to become one of the best tourist spots in the world.
“People are used to seeing Las Vegas as the place to look at for boxing, but Asia is the place people are looking at,” ALA Promotions president Michael Aldegeur told The Ring. “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.”
Make no mistake; there aren’t any grand illusions on the kind of expectations and exposure this fight is going to receive. Sabillo and Estrada are both unknown fighters fighting in a weight class that’s pretty much been cast to the shores by mainstream boxing fans. There’s also that issue of the actual venue of the fight because if it does push through and Solaire agrees to host it, it would most likely be held in its ballroom, which can only seat a few thousand people, give or take.
But the fact that it could be held at Entertainment City? That’s the big deal.
If the whole boxing card is relatively successful – and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be – then it can provide the blueprint on how Solaire Manila – and all of Entertainment City, for that matter – can host bigger fights and events in the future.
That’s the golden goose in this scenario. More than any other country in Asia, the Philippines is considered the boxing factory of this region. But other countries aren’t that far off. Thailand has great fighters. So does Japan. There are prospects from all over the region, waiting for the opportunity to showcase themselves on a big stage.
Eventually, the hope is for Entertainment City to be that big stage. The place where huge fights are made, and the place where people from all over the region, maybe even the world, heads over to watch them.
Nobody’s supplanting Vegas when it comes to hosting boxing fights. Not now and possibly not in the immediate future. But with promoters like Top Rank looking to the East to host their fights, don’t be surprised if the Philippines becomes preferred destination number 1.
But first, there’s that title fight between Merlito Sabillo and Jorle Estrada, two relatively unknown fighters fighting for the Sabillo’s WBO strawweight title.
Not a lot of people know them now, but in the end, you can be looking at two trailblazers who showed the world that the Philippines is ready to put on its big boy pants and become a preferred destination for world-class boxing fights and entertainment events in the future.