There are competing cards this Saturday night on Showtime and ESPN that feature a pair of future Hall-of-Famers who are looking to unify their divisions in 2022, but must first get past this weekend unscathed.
WBC bantamweight titlist, Nonito Donaire, takes on Reymart Gaballo from the Dignity Health Park in Carson, California. On the other side of the country from Madison Square Garden in New York, Vasiliy Lomachenko faces Richard Commey.
For Donaire, this is his second outing of 2021, after blasting out the previously undefeated Nordine Ouubali in four rounds in late May, 'the Filipino Flash' was slated to take on WBO belt-holder, John Riel Casimero.
But that match-up dissolved as there was disagreement over VADA drug testing for that fight, as Casimero failed to provide the proper forms to get into the drug testing system. After much public bickering between the two sides, Donaire, excused himself from the fight, and Casimero went onto futilely chase Guillermo Rigondeaux around the ring in the August in retaining his title.
So Donaire waited and now he faces another Filipino in Gaballo. At age 39, he knows time is not necessarily on his side, but he's philosophical about these things nowadays.
"It's just been a road, I'm grateful for it, and I'm very excited," he said to SNAC.com on Wednesday afternoon. "It's just one of those things that I'm finding myself truly in this game again and being excited for each fight."
There was a point in time, when boxing was strictly a job for Donaire, a chore that had to be taken care off. But he now looks at these opportunities as a blessing. Donaire no longer takes these assignments for granted.
He explained, "In the past years, I was just in limbo. I had experience but I wasn't using my experience. Now, I'm utilizing my experience. That's the difference now. It all started with the (Naoyo) Inoue fight and I'm just getting back into the rhythm during the pandemic, and just getting my body healed up and just getting the time to concentrate about what's going on, what's happening, and where I want to go."
Back in November of 2019, Inoue and Donaire engaged in a memorable battle in the finals of the World Boxing Super Series, that saw Inoue walk away with the Muhammad Ali Trophy. Inoue is currently the Ring Magazine bantamweight champion, while Donaire is rated first in the division.
So which fight does he yearn for in the next year, a rematch with Inoue, or the grudge match with fellow Filipino, Casimero?
"All of the above,'' he answered with a chuckle. "It doesn't matter, whatever is better, or faster to make the negotiations to be done. I mean, one way or the other, I'm going to go after either one."
For him, the ultimate goal is very simple.
"Unify the belts and enter the road to undisputed."
Meanwhile at the Garden, former unified lightweight champion, Vasiliy Lomachenko, takes on former IBF belt-holder, Richard Commey. Last fall, Lomachenko lost his titles to Teofimo Lopez, and then underwent surgery on his right shoulder.
He made his return to the ring in June and put forth an impressive performance by halting the durable Masayoshi Nakatani in nine. Lomachenko showed that he is still very much a forced to be reckoned with at 135.
The past few weeks has been very eventful for this division. First Lopez was upset by George Kambosos, Devin Haney got past Joseph Diaz, and then Gervonta Davis got a tougher-than-expected tussle from Isaac Cruz.
There is a growing sentiment that the 33-year old Ukrainian is still the games best lightweight. He can state his case by clearly defeating Commey, who outside of getting stopped by Lopez in two rounds, as been a very stout boxer.
A victory is expected, but not necessarily guaranteed, here. But with a dominant outing, there will be clamoring for Lomachenko to get back into the championship mix heading into the next year. Bob Arum pointed out that his client is the top rated fighter in this weight class by the WBO and WBC, who's belts are now held by Kambosos.
"We'll get that fight done and Lomachenko will be again, going through the arduous task of winning back all those belts," said Arum to SNAC.com, who then added, "which he probably should've never lost in the first place. But he insisted on doing that fight with Teofimo when he had a bad shoulder."
The veteran promoter, who just turned 90 this week, called the possibility of making a fight with Kambosos in Australia, ''wonderful,'' given their past experiences there with Jeff Horn and Manny Pacquiao.
Lomachenko is no stranger to fighting on the road, given that he's spent his professional career in America, and faced Luke Campbell in England.
"Y'know, the ring is the same, the officials are the same, and I think there will be as many people cheering for Lomachenko as Kambosos because Lomachenko's very popular in Australia," stated Arum. "So of course we would go to Australia."
3KR on TRILLER
If you haven't heard, 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' with Mario Lopez and myself, is now on Triller (and their YouTube page). Here's is this weeks episodez:
The Showtime broadcast from 'the War Grounds' begins at 10 pm ET/7 pm PT....The co-feature here is a welterweight bout between Kudratillo Abdukakhorov and Cody Crawley, and junior welterweight prospect, Brandun Lee faces Juan Heraldez....Meanwhile the ESPN telecast is set to kick off around 9 pm ET/6 pm PT after the Heisman Trophy presentation....The WBA announced that Yordenis Ugas and Eimantas Stanionis have reached an agreed to finalize their fight. Ugas, who defeated Manny Pacquiao in August, is the WBA 147 pound champion...Miami is now playing big-time college football...Bryce Young of Alabama is going to win the Heisman, right?....I can be reached at email@example.com....