‘Big Bang’ set for world title shot

WILLIE “Big Bang” CASEY will touch gloves with the two-time Olympic champion Guillermo Rigondeaux for the WBA super bantamweight title at the Citywest Conference Centre on January 19 following agreement between the camps.

The Limerick southpaw had been scheduled to defend his WBU title against former champion Kiko Martinez in March, but is more than willing to vacate the belt in favour of a shot at the world title.

“What a Christmas present and what a great way to start the New Year,” Casey said. “There are five or six big guys out there waiting for a crack at the world title and here I am ready to bring the belt, which was won by Bernard Dunne two years ago, back to Ireland.”

Rigondeaux is regarded as one of the most exciting amateur boxers of all time — underscored by his two Olympic gold medals — and since he defected from Cuba and linked up with Corkman Gary Hyde his professional career has taken on whirlwind proportions.

He has gone the distance in only two of his fights — the last time when he beat Ricardo Cordoba, who was stripped of the world title by Dunne, for the interim WBA world super bantamweight title on a split decision in November.

Since then Celestino Caballero has moved up to featherweight and Rigondeaux will be confirmed the official world champion this week after just eight professional fights and, with negotiations concluded, Casey will be his first challenger.

“This will be a great opportunity for me,” Casey admitted. “Okay, someone is going to say it’s coming a bit too early but in this game you take the chances that come your way. I could hang on for another year or two and maybe still lose. There are no guarantees in boxing.

“I am very confident going into this fight. I will take it easy and enjoy Christmas. Then, early in January, I’ll get back into serious training for this fight.

“I am well aware he’s a very good boxer. He has had a very good amateur career, and I have to admire him for what he is doing. He’s coming over here to fight me in my own back yard and that’s not easy for a world champion. Obviously, he feels confident that he will keep his belt.

“To say I’m excited is an understatement. I know I will have to give up my European title but I have no regrets about that because opportunities like this don’t come along too often. The beauty of it is that if things go wrong, I can always step back down and challenge for the European title again.

“I’m European champion after just 11 fights and two years as a pro, and still it goes on. This guy is skilful and talented but we are going to work out a plan just as we did for Paulie Hyland.”

Casey’s supporters will be foremost in the thoughts of the promoters when they meet RTE today with a view to securing live television coverage in Ireland.

DolPhil Promotions have joined forces with Nowhere to Hyde promotions, headed up by Gary Hyde, to promote an action-packed bill on which Cork-based Cuban, Alexei Acosta, will also fight for a title.

“I am excited about it,” Hyde said. “I always said that if and when Guillermo Rigondeaux won the world title, I would take him over to fight the best super bantamweight in Europe and right now that’s Willie Casey.

“Willie is tailor made for Guillermo Rigondeaux. He will be in his face all night, coming forward all the time and Guillermo likes to sit back and let the other guy make the pace. That’s if Willie Casey doesn’t start landing the big bombs.”

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