Battle royale looms among Filipino kingpins in tough bantamweight class

Published June 11, 2021, 1:53 PM

by Dennis Principe

Nonito Donaire

In an instant, the bantamweight class became the most interesting division among Filipino fight fans as soon as Nonito Donaire Jr. claimed a world title belt in the tough 118-lb kingdom.

The newly-minted World Boxing Council (WBC) bantamweight champion Donaire is now one of two reigning Filipino world titleholders in the division, with three-division world champion Johnriel Casimero being the other kingpin as he currently holds the World Boxing Organization (WBO) strap.

After his spectacular fourth round knockout win over Frenchman Nordine Oubaali late last month in Carson, California, Donaire declared his eagerness to battle one-time tormentor and dual world titleholder Naoya Inoue of Japan.

“That’s why I wanted to win this fight because that’s my next goal. The only thing I haven’t done in boxing is becoming undisputed, and the next phase is getting the rematch (with Inoue),” said Donaire during the post fight interview after his win over Oubaali.

Donaire, 38, wants to avenge his 12-round unanimous decision loss to Inoue during their first meeting last November 2019 in Saitama, Japan.

However, Camarines Sur’s Michael Dasmarinas could derail Donaire’s rematch bid as the Bicolano boxer is set to battle Inoue in a 12-round bout for the Japanese champion’s World Boxing Association (WBA) and International Boxing Federation (IBF) belts on June 19 in Las Vegas.

If ever Dasmariñas gets to snatch Inoue’s WBA and IBF crowns, Donaire may have no other choice but to pursue an All-Filipino title fight if he wants to become undisputed champion the soonest possible time.

Another option for Donaire is to vie for the WBO crown of Casimero who is seemingly on the wrong side of the fence lately for publicly bashing the management styles of fellow Filipino champion Jerwin Ancajas and unbeaten young Ifugao prospect Carl Jammes Martin.

Donaire though will surely be an eager spectator in Casimero’s next title defense as the Ormoc-born boxer will stake his crown against Guillermo Rigondeaux of Cuba on August 14 in a Showtime-televised event in the United States.

It won’t be a surprise if Donaire calls out Rigondeaux should the Cuban gets to snatch the WBO belt from Ringodeaux.

Like Inoue, Rigondeaux also holds a 1-0 record against Donaire after the Cuban escaped with a close decision win over the Filipino Flash during their 12-round superbantamweight world title faceoff last April 2013 in New York.

Another potential All-Filipino bantamweight title fight could happen if Donaire will be ordered to face Reymart Gaballo, the General Santos City-native bomber who is recognized by the WBC as its interim champion.

Gaballo, 24, was given a chance to reign as interim titleholder when both Donaire and Oubaali tested positive for COVID that led to two postponements of their title go.

Those postponements led to an interim battle between the WBC’s top two challengers in Gaballo and Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez, with the Filipino boxer scoring a 12-round split decision win last December 2020 in Connecticut.