Filipino world bantamweight champion John Riel Casimero will take on undefeated Duke Micah of Ghana in a "must-win" fight in Connecticut on Sunday (Manila time) to give himself a shot at the winner between Japanese superstar Naoya Inoue and Australia's Jason Moloney.
The 12-round title tiff, set at Mohegan Sun Hotel and Casino in Uncasville, will be Casimero's first on pay-per-view.
It is also the first major boxing fight that will feature a Filipino fighter in a world title showdown in the COVD-19 era.
Casimero's World Boxing Organization belt will be on the line.
"This is the first time to show the whole world. This is it, I'll do my best," Casimero said in the final press conference before the fight. "I'm super ready, ready for this fight."
In the final weigh-in on Friday for the 118-pound tussle, Casimero came in at 117.75, while Micah was at 117.25.
Micah, who has not tasted defeat in 24 bouts, said he planned to engage the Ormoc native in a tactical war.
"This will be like Frazier-Ali. I'm gonna use my mind. He's a good boxer and he can punch," Micah said.
"I'm coming out to fight to show the world I'm No. 1."
Casimero, 29-4 (20 KOs) was originally slated to unify his WBO title with Inoue’s IBF and WBA straps on April 25. But the showdown was shelved because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Inoue later opted to face Moloney instead.
This prompted Casimero to take on a "lesser fighter" in Micah, who is ranked No. 11 by the WBO.
But boxing analysts Nissi Icasiano and Dennis Principe said Casimero shouldn't underestimate his new challenger.
"He is in must-win situation . . . 'Pag sumablay si John Riel dito baka mapurnada 'yung hinahanap niyang big fights na kailangan niya to bolster his resume as an international fighter," said Icasiano.
"Hindi lingid sa kaalaman natin na ina-eye niya ang biggest fights sa weight class niya."
Principe said the bout is an opportunity to keep Casimero in the equation for major bantamweight title bouts.
"Ang dapat isipin dito ni John Riel is that this is his audition doon sa potential winner nina Inoue at Jason Moloney because I believe kung maging impressive siya sa laban na ito nandoon pa rin siya sa equation na iyon," Principe said.
"So it's up to him really. I believe Micah is an ideal opponent to regain the opportunity to fight Naoya Inoue."