By Dennis Principe
(Solar Sports Desk) - With its acknowledged standard bearer Pambansang Kamao Manny Pacquiao sure to be crownless the rest of the year, Philippine boxing will be relying on six diminutive but gutsy fighters to carry the cudgels for the country the next few months.
A former eight-division world champion, Pacquiao will see action this November against Mexican-American Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios. But it will be a nontitle fight to be staged at the Venetian Hotel in Macau.
Trailblazing the aim of Pinoy boxing campaigners is longtime mandatory title challenger Denver Cuello who will clash with World Boxing Council (WBC) minimumweight champion Xiong Zhao Zhong of China on June 28 at the World Trade Centre in Dubai.
The 26-year-old Cuello (33-4-6, 21 knockouts) patiently waited for his turn and took a few steps aside requests as he was the mandatory challenger of the WBC the last two years.
The following month, another minimumweight champion Merlito Sabillo of Bacolod will stake his World Boxing Organization (WBO) 105-lb tiara against Mexican Jorle Estrada on July 6 at the Solaire Casino in Pasay City.
The 29-year-old Sabillo (21-0, 11 KO’s) won the crown when he shocked top Colombian contender Luis De La Rosa right in his backyard via 8th round TKO last March 9 at the Coliseo Mario de leon in Colombia.
Back home, John Riel Casimero is slated to defend his International Boxing Federation (IBF) lightflyweight belt on July 21 at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
According to promoter Sammy Gello-ani, he already sent potential challenger Mauricio Fuentes of Colombia the fight contract and that they are just waiting for a response.
Gello-ani said since the IBF granted them a choice defense, they are allowed to pick whoever among the top 12 challengers as Casimero’s opponent.
“We have agreed in principle with TV-5 regarding the date and venue. In case Fuentes is not available, our partner Samson Lewkowicz has some fighters on standby in case Fuentes backs out,” said Gello-ani.
This will be Casimero’s third title defense since winning the crown two years ago in Argentina by defeating local boy Luis Lazarte via 10th round TKO.
In that fight, Casimero attracted worldwide attention after he was attacked by an apparently intoxicated Lazarte supporter in a scene that went viral online. Casimero left unscathed as he hid under the ring for about an hour.
Since then, the 23-year-old Casimero (18-2, 10 knockouts) has defended the belt twice behind enemy lines by beating Pedro Guevarra of Mexico and Luis Alberto Rios of Panama.
The same day Casimero defends his strap, compatriot John Mark Apolinario gets his third title shot when he challenges one of Japan’s most popular champions Koki Kameda for the World Boxing Association (WBA) bantamweight crown at the Tokyo Big Sight in Tokyo, Japan.
In his last two bouts for the WBA interim title, Apolinario settled for a draw against Panamanian Roberto Vasquez in November 2012 in Argentina. Apolinario then dropped a razor-thin split decision verdict in their rematch March of this year in Panama.
Undefeated top flyweight contender Milan Melindo will get his mandatory title shot when he battles World Boxing Organization (WBO) and WBA 112-lb champion Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico on July 27 at the Venentian Hotel in Macau.
Melindo is eyeing payback for Philippine boxing as Estrada is the same Mexican fighter who dethroned Ilocos-born Brian “Hawaiian Punch” Viloria last April 6 also in Macau.
Meantime Melindo’s stablemate and WBO lightflyweight kingpin Donnie “Ahas” Nietes will see action against a still undetermined opponent on August 24 at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu.
The 31-year-old Nietes (31-1-4, 17 KO’s) is preparing for a potential joust in Mexico against former opponent Moises Fuentes before the end of the year.
March of this year, Nietes kept his crown when he tallied a majority draw verdict against Fuentes.
For more sports news, visit www.solarsportsdesk.ph/
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Pia Hontiveros, Chief Correspondent and anchor of Solar Network News and News.Ph, presents the Solar News and Current Affairs year-ender special: On the Cusp of Change. A deafening silence, not out of a loss for words but a grief that cannot be spoken, for thousands lost to a super typhoon ... A muted pain from a powerful tremor that violently shook the heart of the nation ... An unspeakable anger over pork barrel that fueled a political maelstrom ... These and other stories from the extraordinary challenging year that was.