He had everything before him and that March fight looked like a major step forward in his professional career.
However, the rout that followed knocked Casey in more ways than one. His career was in doubt until he relaunched it under the Cuban’s manager Gary Hyde in style with an impressive eighth-round stoppage of Frenchman Daniel Kodjo Sassou on the Tyson Furey undercard at the King’s Hall in Belfast.
Even allowing for ring rustiness following a six-month break after the Rigondeaux defeat, it was a masterful performance against a man who had gone the distance with current Irish featherweight champion Patrick Hyland the previous April.
It gives Casey something to build on as he heads into another year.
That was on his mind yesterday as he returned to his training camp in Belfast after spending Christmas with his family in Limerick. He relocated to the North last year to train with Sean and Paul McCullagh and, while it was a huge move away from his family, he liked it there.
“I have everything I need there and, most importantly, I have a lot of good spars so it has been a good move for me,” he said.
“As regards my style, they have changed everything and I think people realised that and liked it when I boxed Sassou. They saw a totally different Willie Casey.”
His split with Gary Hyde two weeks ago was by mutual agreement and said he has no problem with managing his own affairs for the time being.
“Gary and myself sat down and had a long chat about things and, collectively, we agreed that this would be the best thing for me,” Casey said.
“I feel that, having been around the block and back, I can look after myself now. Since it happened I have already had a few approaches from prospective managers and promoters but it is something I need to think about seriously. I am sure the time will come when I will need somebody and I will think about it then.”
In the meantime, it will be business as usual in Belfast where he continues to train hard and be ready for every opportunity.
“I may be fighting at the end of the month or early February,” he said.
“That’s what I am working towards. I am right up there now, ranked number three or four in Europe, and there is the possibly of another shot at the European title — maybe a world title fight — we’ll wait and see.”