By Ronnie Nathanielsz
World rated Drian Francisco who has been training hard at the gym of former heavyweight and one-time partner of Freddie Roach, Justin Fortune, is now in line to get a shot at undefeated WBA super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux.
However, there was no definite word on whether the fight will be on the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez IV undercard at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on December 8 or on the WBO super bantamweight title defense of planned Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire against Jorge “Travieso” Arce in Houston, Texas on December 15.
Francisco’s manager Elmer Anuran told BoxingScene.com/Manila Standard that “our camp is very much willing to take the offer. Drian and his coach Justin Fortune confirmed the acceptance yesterday.”
The youthful manager/promoter said “We’re mindful that Rigo is a great fighter, the defending champion, a two-time Olympic gold medalist but we also give Drian high credit and trust that he can surely deliver a good fight and God willing could pull off a big upset.”
Francisco’s break came after Top Rank promoter Bob Arum informed us last week that they were trying to get newly crowned conqueror of AJ “Bazooka” Banal, Thailand’s Pungluang Sor Singyu to face Rigondeaux. However, we informed Arum that Pungluang was only a bantamweight and he was just coming off a hard fight against Banal although he won the WBO title by a 9th round TKO.
Francisco was training for a scheduled bout on the undercard of the WBO flyweight unification title fight between WBO champion Brian Viloria and WBA champion Hernan “Tyson” Marquez on November 17 at the LA Sports Arena when the Rigondeaux offer came through.
In a recent interview at the Fortune Gym, Francisco told us no matter who his opponent will be he is focused on his training and in an interview with Jayson Otamias for the Standard, praised Fortune for his “advanced technical training.”
Francisco said the advantage of working with Fortune is that “he is a conditioning trainer, a former boxer who also trained Manny Pacquiao in the past.”
The stylish Francisco who at one stage of his career was being compared to two division world champion Luisito Espinosa. He said his condition is “much better now because Fortune’s conditioning program was a big help. My body, legs and muscles are much stronger.”
The 29 year old Francisco has a record of 23-1-1 with 18 knockouts and is coming off a sensational first round knockout of Mexican Jose Carlos Vargas in Mexico.
Francisco earlier won the IBF Pan Pacific super bantamweight title with a 1st round knockout of Pichitchai Twins Gym last April 14.
Rigondeaux, nicknamed “The Jackal” won the WBA 122 pound title with a 6th round knockout of Rico Ramos (20-0) on January 20 this year.
He has been chasing a fight with WBO champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire but Donaire has asked the Cuban to first prove he is worthy of a title shot behind a record of 11-0 with 8 knockouts.