It appears to be only a matter of time before Naoya Inoue and John Riel Casimero, who combined hold three of the bantamweight divisions world titles, meet in a unification fight.
“I believe the fight’s inevitable,” said Sean Gibbons, the Nevada-based matchmaker and president of MP Promotions.
“It’s up to [Inoue’s co-promoters] Mr. Honda and Bob Arum, if they want it next, Casimero’s ready. If they don’t, Casimero is gonna look to return to the ring in the first quarter of 2020.”
Gibbons tells Rappler that he’ll be meeting with both Arum and Honda, who run Top Rank and Teiken Promotions, respectively, in Japan to discuss the fight. Gibbons will be in Japan to support another MP Promotions fighter, Randy Petalcorin, who faces WBC junior flyweight titleholder Ken Shiro on Monday.
Casimero (29-4, 20 knockouts) moved into pole position for a big fight on Nov. 30, when he knocked out Zolani Tete in three rounds to win the WBO bantamweight title.
Tete had been the top rated contender underneath RING champion Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs) before then. Inoue, 26, won the World Boxing Super Series tournament last month, surviving a brutal shootout with Nonito Donaire Jr. to add the WBA belt to the IBF title he’d won earlier in the year with a knockout of Emmanuel Rodriguez. Afterwards, Top Rank announced that they were signing a co-promotional deal with the Japanese star.
“He will probably fight stateside in April. I don’t know he’ll fight yet, that’s gonna be discussed in the next couple of weeks,” said Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti.
“It’s a preference that we make that unification fight,” added Moretti, but an IBF mandatory due next against Michael Dasmarinas complicates that matter. “Whether it’s the first fight or the second fight, I think you’ll see them get it done in 2020. Does it really matter which order it is? People are dying to see Inoue in the States, and that’s what they’ll get in April, probably.”
What un-complicates it somewhat is that the Filipino southpaw Dasmarinas (30-2-1, 20 KOs) is handled by MP Promotions.
“We’ve got him cornered. He got Donaire first, he’s got two more coming. We’re gonna keep swarming Inoue with Filipinos until we get him,” said Gibbons.
Gibbons adds that, if unification isn’t next for Casimero, then he’ll likely return against a “solid opponent…and just get some more rounds under his belt in preparation for that fight.”
Casimero, 30, of Ormoc City, Leyte, Philippines wasted little time in calling for Inoue, challenging the Japanese star from ringside after stopping Tete in Birmingham, saying “Come on, Monster!” into the BT Sport camera. Inoue acknowledged Casimero’s win on Twitter, saying “things are now going to get interesting.”
Gibbons says that Donaire “really exposed him a lot and showed his flaws,” and believes that the three-division champion Casimero can exploit some of those weaknesses if they meet.
“Casimero’s defense is like Willie Pep compared to Inoue,” said Gibbons. “[Inoue’s] biggest thing was always, his offense is defense, and you can get away with that with the guys he was fighting. All of a sudden if you’re fighting a guy with a little skill and a little power like [Casimero], it’s gonna be really interesting if he catches you with those shots. He hits as hard as Donaire if not harder.”
Moretti says he can’t pick a winner, but thinks it’ll be a lot of fun to watch.
“Bombs away,” said Moretti. “Inoue has proved that he can take huge shots from somebody like Nonito Donaire. Casimero fights the same way. I don’t think it goes the distance.”
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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