By Jake Donovan
The news of Britain’s Paul Butler vacating his bantamweight title barely a month after dethroning countryman Stuart Hall leaves a wide open opportunity for Randy Caballero to not only fight for the title, but do so while not having to stray very far from home.
The lingering question, however, is against whom that opportunity will come.
Caballero (21-0, 13KOs) earned a mandatory title shot following his 8th round knockout of Kohei Oba this past April in Japan. The bout was his first outside of the United States and just his third overall outside of California. A road trip was expected for his first title shot, regardless of the turnout of Hall’s failed voluntary title defense versus Butler in June.
With Butler vacating the bantamweight title in order to focus on contending for hardware at his more preferred weight class at 115 lb., Caballero and promoter Golden Boy Promotions have begun plans to secure an opponent for what they hope to be a summer showdown at Fantasy Springs Casino in his hometown of Indio, Calif., where the 23-year old has fought 12 times to date.
The highest two rated contenders to face Caballero are: Daiki Kameda, a former 115 lb. titlist who recently announced his intentions to compete at bantamweight; and power-punching Top 10 contender Julio Ceja.
According to an interview with The Desert Sun – Caballero’s hometown newspaper – their belief is that they will be forced to dig a little deeper down the International Boxing Federation (IBF) bantamweight ratings in order to secure an opponent.
However, that logic is a bit flawed, considering the fact that the leading two candidates are game for the cause.
“Julio Ceja would be very interested in fighting Caballero,” notes Oswaldo Küchle, Ceja’s promoter. “We are sure that Julio will be a world champion in the near future, no matter who he faces.”
Kameda’s plans remain unclear for the moment, having just moved up in weight while older brother Koki Kameda functionally takes his place in the 115 lb. division. His younger brother, Tomoki Kameda defends his own version of the bantamweight title versus former champ Pungluang Sor Singyu next weekend in Las Vegas, on a Golden Boy-promoted show headlined by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in a non-title fight versus Erislandy Lara. Both Tomoki and Daiki have fought in Mexico before and have no reservations about fighting on the road.
Whether or not he pursues that route or waits out a pending title fight between Anselmo Moreno and Juan Carlos Payano (Kameda is the next highest challenger to that belt as well) remains to be seen.
It was suggested that Ceja (27-1, 25KOs) would explore the possibility of facing unbeaten WBC bantamweight titlist Shinsuke Yamanaka. The move would make sense as two of his past three bouts have come with the WBC Silver title at stake, including a 10th round knockout win over Ranel Suco this past April. His three fight win streak comes following a failed title bid versus Jamie McDonnell in England last May.
Yamanaka hasn’t fought since April, but is in negotiations for a mandatory title defense versus former 115 lb. titlist Suriyan Sor Rungvisai.
With everyone else booked, it would seem that the best option for both Ceja and Kameda would be to claim the nearest vacancy.
“Whatever opportunity comes first, we will pursue,” Küchle says of Ceja’s future plans. “If the IBF grants us an invitation to fight Caballero, we will gladly move forward with those plans.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBoxTags: Randy Caballero , Julio Ceja