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Pinoy champs collide to unify titles
WBC king Nonito Donaire Jr., right, and WBO belt holder JohnRiel Casimero.
Photo by Jhay Otamias

Pinoy champs collide to unify titles

Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - June 21, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — History will be made when two reigning Filipino world champions clash to unify the WBC and WBO bantamweight titles at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson City, Los Angeles County, on Aug. 14 with the winner to battle super WBA/IBF ruler Naoya Inoue in the ultimate 118-pound showdown.

Newly-crowned WBC king Nonito Donaire Jr. and WBO beltholder JohnRiel Casimero will slug it out in the first-ever fight between two Filipino world champions on a Showtime card promoted by Tom Brown under Premier Boxing Champions. Regular WBA titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux of Cuba was originally Casimero’s opponent but a switch was recently made to bring in Donaire who wrested the WBC crown from Nordine Oubaali on a fourth round stoppage in the same Carson City venue last month.

Donaire, 38, said he would’ve preferred not to fight a fellow Filipino but “I have a goal to accomplish as it’s always in my head to become the undisputed champion.” Taking the WBO strap from Casimero is his first step to arrange a rematch with Inoue. “My only focus is to unify all the championships,” he said. “It was only three weeks ago when I fought Oubaali but I’m back in the gym. I took a week off in Florida then started training again. I’m ready for anyone. I know Casimero’s strong and I respect his power. But I’ve seen guys he’s knocked down get up. When I hit my opponents and they go down, they go to sleep.”

Casimero, 31, landed in Los Angeles with chief of staff Marc Lontayao last week and is living in a house set up by MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons near the Las Vegas strip. Strength and conditioning coach Memo Heredia stays in the house with Casimero and Lontayao. Casimero said he now weighs about 135 pounds but shouldn’t find it difficult to make the bantamweight limit. He’s working out at Jorge Capetillo’s gym.

“Historic ito,” said Casimero. “First time, dalawang Pinoy world champions lalaban sa unification. Hati ang bayan natin pero pagkatapos ng laban, buo tayo uli. Kung sino manalo ay susunod na kalaban ni Inoue para lahat ng bantamweight championships hawak ng isang kampeon at ako na ‘yon.”

Casimero said although Donaire is known as a devastating puncher, he’s not worried. “Si (Zolani) Tete may hawak na record of 11 seconds na pinakamabilis na knockout sa world title fight,” he said. “Pero ‘di niya ako nasaktan, si Donaire pa kaya?” In 2017, Tete disposed of South African Siboniso Gonya with his first punch, a right to the head, in 11 seconds of the first round in a WBO title fight in Belfast. In 2019, Casimero dropped Tete twice enroute to a third round demolition in Birmingham.

Donaire turned pro in 2001 and had already posted a 17-1 record when Casimero made his debut six years later. The Filipino Flash totes a record of 41-6, with 27 KOs and has collected world titles in five divisions. Quadro Alas’ mark is 30-4, with 21 KOs and has won world crowns in three weight classes.

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