Finding Inoue’s successors

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

There is speculation that with Naoya Inoue relinquishing his world bantamweight titles in four governing bodies, Filipinos will step up to the plate and vie for the vacant thrones. But according to MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons, the only Filipino assured of a crack at the moment is Nonito Donaire Jr. whos in line to battle for the WBC title even as his opponent is still to be determined.

Former IBF superflyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas, ranked No. 5 by IBF and No. 10 by WBA in the 118-pound division, was rumored to be taking on Inoues brother Takuma for the WBA crown. The WBAs No. 1 slot is vacant and Takuma is No. 2. Gibbons said Takuma facing Ancajas may happen “eventuallybut its not on the table yet. Takuma will take on Venezuelas Liborio Solis for the vacant WBA diadem and if the Japanese wins, Ancajas could be his first challenger.

In IBF, General Santos Citys Vincent Astrolabio is No. 1 and Puerto Ricos Emmanuel Rodriguez, No. 2. The IBF has ordered a match between the fighters and set a deadline of Feb. 25 to finalize negotiations. If both sides are unable to come to terms, IBF will conduct a purse bid. Although IBF is pushing for the Astrolabio-Rodriguez bout, Gibbons said “its most likely not happening.” Rodriguez once held the IBF bantamweight title and is itching to regain the belt. Hes lost twice in his pro career, once to Inoue by a second round KO and once to Filipino Reymart Gaballo on a split decision. Gaballo is also in the bantamweight conversation, ranked No. 4 by WBC and WBO and No. 6 by IBF.

Astrolabio deserves a shot at the crown, coming off five straight wins, including a sixth round stoppage of Nikolai Potapov and a decision over Cuban legend Guillermo Rigondeaux. Hes IBFs top contender after all. Rodriguez is ranked No. 3 by WBO and No. 5 by WBC. Down the line, the other IBF contenders are No. 3 Jason Moloney, No. 4 Melvin Lopez, No. 5 Ancajas and No. 6 Gaballo.

Moloney, the Australian managed by Top Rank, was supposed to face Donaire for the WBC title but backed out. The scuttlebutt is Top Rank isnt inclined to negotiate with Donaires promoter Probellum. But surely, if a world title is at stake, personal or political differences can be shelved. Is the real reason Moloneys scared of Donaire? Moloney is also ranked No. 1 by WBO where Astrolabio is No. 2. In Moloneys eyes, maybe Astrolabio could be less of a risk than Donaire. With Moloney forum-shopping, Donaire might end up facing No. 6 Mexican contender Alejandro Santiago who held Ancajas to a split draw in 2018. Thailands Nowaphon Sor Rungvisai is ranked No. 3 but isnt in the equation. Hes not as renowned as his namesake Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, the former WBC superflyweight champion.

Gibbons also ruled out the possibility of Gaballo tangling with Moloney for the WBO title. Talks are continuing to determine the fighters tangling for the vacant WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO bantamweight titles. In other ring fronts, Gibbons said what he can guarantee is Eumir Marcial fighting a six-rounder in San Antonio, Texas on Feb. 11, Mark Magsayo tackling Brandon Figueroa for the vacant interim WBC featherweight crown in Ontario, California on March 4 and Marlon Tapales challenging IBF superbantamweight champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev in San Antonio, Texas, on April 8. He added that Jade Borneas fight against IBF superflyweight titlist Fernando Martinez isnt on the calendar yet.


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