The upcoming fight between John Riel Casimero and Guillermo Rigondeaux remains one of the most anticipated matchups of the summer.
What it won’t be, however, is a sanctioned unification match.
Casimero (30-4, 21KOs) and Rigondeaux (20-1, 13KOs) are due to collide August 14, live on Showtime from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. The bout has been appropriately billed as a WBO bantamweight title fight, a belt which Casimero has held dating back to his third-round knockout of Zolani Tete in November 2019.
Rigondeaux—a Cuban southpaw based out of Miami—holds a secondary version of the WBA bantamweight title, which he claimed in a twelve-round win over Liborio Solis last February just prior to the pandemic. The belt has not been referenced in any press releases, although he is mentioned in those same distributions as a two-division champion.
That status has come into question, as three-division champion Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18KOs) currently holds the WBA “Super” bantamweight title. Sanctioning bodies generally do not recognize secondary titles from other organizations, a reminder the WBO has issued to all parties involved in Casimero-Rigondeaux.
“Please be advised that the WBO only recognizes Naoya Inoue as WBA Bantamweight Champion,” Francisco ‘Paco’ Valcarcel, longtime president of the WBO declared Wednesday evening. “WBO will never unify with Regular, Interim nor In Recess.”
Rigondeaux was originally announced to face Casimero this summer, only for those plans to change in the aftermath of Nonito Donaire (41-6, 27KOs) claiming the WBC bantamweight title in a fourth-round knockout of unbeaten titlist Nordine Oubaali. Three weeks later came an announcement that Casimero and Donaire were set to collide in a WBO/WBC title unification clash, one that both sanctioning bodies were ready to embrace.
No sooner were such plans revealed did the fight fall apart due to a variety of concerns from the Donaire side. Casimero revisited the original script, with Rigondeaux back on board for the fight.
The WBO is fine with the fight, as long as it is agreed that the only way Rigondeaux truly becomes a two-division titlist is by dethroning Casimero next month.
“We ONLY acknowledge [one] World Champion per weight division,” Valcarcel notes. “Waiting on Rigondeaux’ request to be classified accordingly.”
Despite the WBO’s hard stance on what should be a widely accepted rule, there have been past exceptions.
Ironically, Inoue was permitted to keep his WBA “World” bantamweight title entering his May 2019 showdown with Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez, who was an unbeaten IBF champ at the time. The bout came as part of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS), with Inoue scoring a second-round knockout to win the IBF title while retain his secondary WBA title status. The unbeaten pound-for-pound entrant from Japan upgraded to WBA “Super” champion following a twelve-round decision over Donaire, who held the main title preceding their November 2019 WBSS final.
Most recently, Brandon Figueroa entered as the WBA “World” junior featherweight titlist ahead of his May 15 clash with WBC titlist Luis Nery. Figueroa won by seventh-round knockout and oddly claims unified title status in a division where Murodjon Akhmadaliev not only holds the WBA “Super” title but is also a true unified titlist as he also owns the IBF strap.
Figueroa’s WBA status could come into play in September, when he challenges WBO junior featherweight titlist Stephen Fulton. The bout can just as easily move forward as a WBC/WBO unification bout and allow for the situation to be the WBA’s problem.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox