Barely a week after agreeing to terms for one of the most anticipated bouts of the summer, Nonito Donaire has placed his principles ahead of a paycheck.
The legendary four-division and reigning WBC bantamweight titlist has doubled down on claims from his team of their no longer moving forward with a planned bantamweight title unification bout versus countryman John Riel Casimero. The all-Filipino clash was due to take place August 14 on Showtime, with Donaire’s WBC belt and Casimero’s WBO title at stake, only to fall apart over drug testing issues and a level of disrespect that Donaire finds unacceptable.
“I am known to take stands people are afraid to take,” Donaire revealed in a statement through social media on Tuesday. “I STAND for VADA 24/7/365 testing for ALL boxers. This should never be refused or delayed. I stand against BULLYING in any form. I STAND against the disrespect and ABUSE of women and children physically, mentally and emotionally. AND I STAND against misogynistic culture.”
The released statement was directed at Casimero (30-4, 21KOs) and his team, beginning with the days-long pursuit of getting paperwork filed in time for both fighters to submit to random drug testing as contracted through Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA). Donaire’s wife/manager/trainer Rachel called for Casimero’s side to comply with such requests, only for the matter to devolve into an ugly and petty feud with plenty of dirty laundry aired out in public.
Team Donaire determined last Friday that the fight was off following repeated requests to submit to VADA testing. The argument from Team Casimero is that the three-division and reigning WBO bantamweight titlist has been enrolled all along, though referring to the WBC’s Clean Boxing Program which randomly tests a small handful of fighters each month.
Such testing standards are not the same as fighters directly enrolling in VADA, guaranteeing thorough and stringent testing from day one.
VADA ultimately confirmed receipt of Casimero’s paperwork on Saturday. It arrived four days after obtaining everything they needed from Donaire, who was the first U.S.-based fighter to submit to year-round random drug testing at the start of the program nearly ten years ago. Representatives involved in the event through the promotion and TV production were all of the understanding that the fight would move forward in present form.
Donaire (41-6, 27KOs) and his team feel otherwise, more so after Casimero’s side have taken trash talking and misogyny—largely directed at Rachel Donaire—to another level.
“A grown man recently told the mother of my boys to 'snack on his ----,’” Donaire noted, the statement coming a day after the boxer confronted the Casimero team member via Instagram Live. “We cannot ignore this unprofessional behavior. We cannot excuse the disgusting trolling memes created of my wife as 'just for entertainment'. I don't want other pro athletes to cross this line and think this type of behavior is acceptable. We have to maintain a respectable character, especially online, for the future generations to emulate, and not promote ignorance and foul behavior. For the boxing culture to change, promoters and networks should veer away from unacceptable behavior and not encourage it.
“That being said, as we've stated before, we cancelled this fight when they delayed turning in the VADA paperwork for 5 days. We have proof that the opposing side was neither honest nor forthcoming in providing the proper information to begin VADA drug testing. AFTER we cancelled the fight, then and only then did the paperwork suddenly appear.”
Showtime representatives were not in a position to comment on the development as this goes to publish. Casimero's team is on record insisting that they will be in the ring August 14, whether versus Donaire or whoever else shows up that night.
"The fight is happening," Sean Gibbons, Casimero's promoter and president of Manny Pacquiao's MP Promotions told BoxingScene.com. "I guarantee that."
Should the fight indeed fall through, it will mark the second such occurrence for Casimero in just 15 months. The brash Filipino was due to face WBA/IBF bantamweight titlist Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18KOs) in a three-belt unification clash last April 25 live on an ESPN platform from Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The highly anticipated fight was canceled due to the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, with the two sides unable to come to an agreement to reschedule due to social distancing measures restricting fan access anywhere the fight could have taken place.
Casimero has fought just once since then, a third-round knockout of Duke Micah last September 26 on a Showtime Pay-Per-View card. The feat marked the first defense of the WBO title he claimed in a third-round knockout of long-reigning titlist Zolani Tete in November 2019, becoming a three-division titlist after having previously held major titles at junior flyweight and flyweight.
The emergence of Casimero onto the bantamweight title scene came just three weeks after Donaire’s second divisional reign came to a close. The Fil-Am superstar came up short in a valiant effort versus Inoue in their November 2019 World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament final at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. The bout was hailed by some outlets—as well as the Boxing Writers Association of America—as the 2019 Fight of the Year.
It was also enough to keep Donaire in the title picture. The WBC named him as its mandatory challenger to the bantamweight title held by France’s two-time Olympian and unbeaten champ Nordine Oubaali. The two sides were ordered to negotiate terms, only for the matter to head to a purse bid hearing. From there came several postponements due to the pandemic as well as both boxers testing positive for COVID ahead of their eventually canceled title fight last December.
The oft-rescheduled bout finally resurfaced May 29 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. The 38-year-old Donaire offered a throwback performance, scoring a fourth-round knockout to enjoy a third bantamweight title reign while breaking his own record as the division’s oldest champion.
His next move seemed in place just three weeks later, when Donaire caught the industry by surprise by agreeing to face Casimero in his next fight. Casimero was already due to face Guillermo Rigondeaux—who owns a win over Donaire in April 2013—as announced by Showtime in revealing their spring and summer schedule earlier this year.
A fight between Casimero and Rigondeaux could come back into play should the unification bout fall through altogether. For now, nearly everyone involved will continue to proceed as if Casimero-Donaire is the plan.
The only one apparently not on board, however, is a crucial component to the fight itself.
“I do what I say,” insists Donaire. “And as much as I want to knock [Casimero] out, I'm going to take the high road and instead of highlighting his misbehavior.
“I'm not going to give his example the stage or the payday that comes with it.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox