Sean working overtime
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 10, 2019 - 12:00am

There are five Filipino fighters ranked No. 1 and 15 in the top five of the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO honor rolls. Four Filipinos reign as world champions today – super WBA welterweight titlist Manny Pacquiao, super WBA bantamweight ruler Nonito Donaire Jr., IBF superflyweight king Jerwin Ancajas and IBF minimumweight beltholder Pedro Taduran. A contender, who’s rated No. 1, is the champion’s mandatory challenger.

Before the year ends, two Filipinos get a chance to claim a world crown. WBO No. 1 Edward Heno takes on defending lightflyweight champion Elwin Soto of Mexico at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California, on Oct. 24. Then, Johnriel Casimero faces WBO bantamweight titleholder Zolani Tete of South Africa in London or Birmingham on Nov. 23. English promoter Frank Warren has yet to finalize the venue.

At least one more Filipino is lined up to figure in a title eliminator in December. WBO No. 1 and IBF No. 3 featherweight Jhack Tepora is set to battle Panama’s WBA No. 6 Bryan de Gracia on Dec. 21 with the winner to challenge WBA champion Xu Can of China assuming he repulses Manny Robles in his second defense in Indio on Nov. 23. Waiting for his shot is WBO No. 1 and IBF No. 3 superbantamweight Marlon Tapales, formerly the WBO bantamweight champion.

Three Filipinos expected to fight for the world title next year are WBO No. 1, IBF No. 3 and WBC No. 5 flyweight Giemel Magramo, WBA No. 4 bantamweight Reymart Gaballo and IBF No. 1 bantamweight Michael Dasmarinas.

The man responsible for sealing the title cracks is MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons who works for Sen. Pacquiao. He moves heaven and earth to give every deserving Filipino contender a shot at the crown. “The Senator opens doors for Filipino fighters to get world title shots,” he said. “Sometimes, they win, sometimes, they lose. That’s boxing. But the important thing is they’re getting the chance to fight for a world title with a big payday.”

WBO No. 1 minimumweight Robert Paradero is also in Gibbons’ sights. Paradero, 23, will see action in an MP card next month. His record is 18-0, with 12 KOs. The Bukidnon fighter is still to be tested. Of his 18 victims, 12 entered the ring with more losses than wins and the most wins any of the six other opponents had were nine.

Of the 15 fighters ranked in the top five, the unbeaten Filipinos are Paradero, Heno, Gaballo and Tepora. Gaballo, a former interim WBA bantamweight champion, has a 22-0 record, with 19 KOs. Gaballo, 23, is from Cotabato del Sur like WBO No. 4 minimumweight and former WBO champion Vic Saludar. Tepora, 24, is a former interim WBA featherweight titlist whose record is 23-0, with 17 KOs. 

WBC No. 2 minimumweight Melvin Jerusalem, 25, is the elite list of 15 and deserves a second shot at the world title. In 2017, he lost a unanimous but close decision to WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin in Thailand. Menayothin has a 53-0 record and is in the record books as an undefeated world champion with the most wins ever, surpassing Floyd Mayweather’s 50-0 and Ricardo Lopez’ 51-0-1. Jerusalem was docked a point for a low blow in the eighth round and would’ve held Wanheng to a majority draw if referee Celestino Ruiz didn’t order the deduction. He has won his last four fights to raise his record to 15-2, with 9 KOs.

Another fighter in the 15-man cast is former four-division world champion Donnie Nietes, ranked No. 4 by the WBC in the superflyweight division. Last December, he won the WBO superflyweight crown but later relinquished it. When he held his four titles, it was difficult to find a willing challenger. That’s how good Nietes is. But now that he’s not a champion, it’s become even more difficult because opponents have nothing to gain by facing him. No wonder Nietes, 37, hasn’t fought at all this year. His record is 42-1-5, with 23 KOs and the future Hall of Famer’s career is far from over but no world champion is rushing to stake his crown against him.

Dasmarinas, a former IBO bantamweight champion, is waiting for his turn to challenge for the IBF crown. Donaire will meet regular WBA/IBF bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue in Tokyo on Nov. 7 and the winner is expected to vacate the IBF throne. That will set the stage for Dasmarinas to vie for the title, possibly against No. 2 Joshua Greer Jr. Dasmarinas’ record is 29-2-1, with 19 KOs.

The list of Filipinos in the top five – Minimumweight: WBO No. 1 Paradero, WBC No. 2 Jerusalem, WBA No. 4 Rey Loreto, WBO No. 4 Saludar, IBF No. 5 Rene Mark Cuarto. Lightflyweight: IBF No. 5 Randy Petalcorin, WBO No. 1 Heno. Flyweight: WBC No. 5, IBF No. 3, WBO No. 1 Magramo. Superflyweight: WBC No. 4 Nietes, WBA No. 4 Gaballo, IBF No. 1 Dasmarinas. Superbantamweight: WBO No. 1, IBF No. 3 Tapales, WBO No. 2 Albert Pagara. Featherweight: IBF No. 3 Tepora. Lightweight: WBO No. 4 Romero Duno.

MANNY PACQUIAO
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