Casey happy with preparations as title date nears

WILLIE “Big Bang” Casey and Guillermo Rigondeaux came face to face at the Montenotte Hotel in Cork for the first time on Saturday ahead of their world title fight in March.

A championship ring was erected at the venue and a large crowd watched Rigondeaux, who won two Olympic and two world titles as an amateur, as he danced through a light workout under veteran trainer Tony Dunlop.

Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Michael O’Sullivan, was first in to face Rigondeaux, who beat Ricardo Cordoba for the WBA world interim title in just his seventh professional fight.

The fighter had the ring to himself for an hour to savour the atmosphere before “Big Bang” entered the room, changing everything dramatically. As he climbed through the ropes, fans rushed to ringside and screamed at him to strip off. He duly obliged, before moving in for a face off.

“It was good. It was exciting to get all the fans together just to see a head to head just a few weeks out from the fight,” Casey said. “It gets them excited and it gets the going.”

It was also the Limerick man’s first time seeing the champion in the flesh and he was not overly impressed.

“I expected him to be a little bit bigger,” Casey insisted. “To me it doesn’t matter how big, small, wide or short he is. The important thing is that the world title is on the line and I want it. The reception from the fans was great, but then I’ve been getting great support this side of the country from the time I turned pro.

“I didn’t expect so many people to turn up; it was just like a fight night. These things really are important. We come here to sell the show but it gives the fans an opportunity to meet us. They enjoy it — watching us stripping off, facing each other up and going head to head — it’s all a little bit of fun but it gets the crowd going.

“We will have the big press conference in Thomond Park on Monday. I’m looking forward to what Rigo has to say. The big night is March 19 at City West, and everything is going exactly as I would want it. I am three or four weeks into my training camp and I feel as strong and as good as I felt at the end of my last camp.”

Rigondeaux, who will return to the very same room on March 7 to put the finishing touches to his preparations, was also impressed with the turnout and praised his manager, Corkman Gary Hyde, for the show.

“Gary did a great job,” he said. “I didn’t think there would be that big of a turnout and with that amount of energy. Where did all those people come from? I’ve got fans all over the world and I think I was just meeting some of them today.

“I am not one of those fighters that talks a big game. I’m quiet... but be careful of the quiet ones.

“Willie Casey looked just like any other fighter. He is not the first and he certainly won’t be the last one I’m going to beat. I did not come all this way to lose my title - I’m coming here to win the fight.

“It doesn’t matter to me if I come to his backyard. As an amateur I fought all over the world with the Cuban team. I don’t mind how I win the fight and if it’s going to be by knockout, so be it. I just let nature take it’s course.”

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