The team of Juanito Rubillar, including manager Gabriel “Bebot” Elorde, Jr. and trainer Fernando Cabanella, and the team of another Filipino, Wydell Janiola, weren’t treated like equal competitors in a huge boxing event in Tijuana, Mexico. From their first day in Tijuana last Monday until before their separate fights took place on Saturday (Sunday in Manila), nobody from the WBC approached them. They felt like plain tourists and boxing fans and not world-class participants.
The WBC never bothered to have promoter Fernando Beltran to pay Rubillar and Janiola, the WBC and IBF top ranked light-flyweight contenders, respectively, half of their contracted purses after the official weigh in – a move that violated the rules and normal procedures in boxing.
Speaking from Manila, Arlene Elorde actually advised his husband Bebot Elorde not to let Rubillar climb into the ring in Tijuana’s Bull Arena (El Toreo de Tijuana) after Beltran failed to come up with the $20,000 purse and $3,600 reimbursement for their travel expenses from Manila via Hollywood, California.
As the official weigh-in for most of the fighters on the card was taking place at the Tijuana Boxing Commission, no official from the WBC was present during simultaneous special official rites for Rubillar and WBC light flyweight champion Jorge “Travieso” Arce at the Plaza Revolucion where fans couldn’t be restrained on Friday.
In suspicion that the scale was tampered with to help Arce make the 108-lb limit, Elorde, one of the most active and influential promoter/manager in the Philippines, scored as Beltran’s people granted his request for another scale.
But to Elorde’s dismay, local fans crowded their sixth WBC light-flyweight champion and denied Team Rubillar to see clearly what was going on at the scale. Arce, at 5-foot-6, is known to have difficulties with making the 108-lb limit.
Like in his promotions in the Philippines, Elorde’s influence hadn’t reached in the officials’ decision in the ring in Tijuana. Elorde also complained in his base in Manila of cold, inhospitable and unfriendly treatment of WBC officials and Beltran – that is far from Filipino hospitality where visitors always treat like VIPs.
Arce retained his title Saturday night in a very tough fight against mandatory challenger Rubillar via a controversial split decision when one of the judges watched a different fight. Perhaps looking for a future assignments and strengthen his ties with Zanfer Promotion’s boss Beltran, judge Roy Ovalle controversially gave a 119-108 decision in favor of Arce, a score that dramatically differed from the other two judges'. David Harris also scored it for Arce, but only by 115-112 while Gale Van Hoy judged in 115-112 in favor of Rubillar.
Both fighters failed to score a knockdown, but referee Toby Gibson appeared to try and impress the Mexican WBC officials and Beltran by slapping a point penalty against Rubillar in the 9th round on the ground of punching behind the head.
It was Arce’s sixth title defense, not seventh defense, as reported by inexperienced and sometime biased Filipino judge and province-based reporter, of the crown he took from Korean Choi Yo Sam in July 2002. It was also his second wins over twelve rounds in as many fights against then and now WBC No. 1 ranked Rubillar.
In the other bout involving a Filipino, local boy Eric Ortiz scored a knockdown to upset Janiola via a technical decision in the 5th round of a non-title fight in the undercard. Ortiz was ahead on all three scorecards at the time of stoppage as Benjamin Rendon saw it a close 48-45 while Alejandro Rochins and José de la Mora had it both 49-44.
But these results of the world-class bouts weren’t the most significant development as it was overshadowed by the harsh-inhospitable treatment of the Mexicans to their Filipino visitors – a bad experienced that will surely become the new impression of boxing personalities and fans in the Philippines for a long-long time.
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