Guillermo Rigondeaux to face Drian Francisco on Cotto-Canelo undercard
MANILA, Philippines – Filipino junior featherweight fringe contender Drian Francisco has signed to face RING 122-pound champ Guillermo Rigondeaux on the undercard of the Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez middleweight championship, which takes place Nov. 21 at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
The 33-year-old Francisco (28-3-1, 22 knockouts), of Sablayan, Philippines, had been scheduled to fight this past Friday in the Philippines but withdrew from the card after he was offered the fight with the former unified 122-pound champion Rigondeaux (15-0, 10 KOs) after the weigh-in.
Matchmaker Joven Jimenez confirmed to THE RING that the contract had been signed and returned to Caribe Promotions, which handles the 35-year-old Cuban boxer. An email to Louis Fonseca of Caribe Promotions was not immediately returned.
Francisco tells RING that he’s confident he can pull off the upset, despite being given late notice.
“After seeing him beat Nonito [Donaire], I told myself that I can do this,” said Francisco. “It’s also my dream fight. All boxers, their greatest goal is to have a fight for a world championship. So I’m not going to let this pass me by. I’m going to do everything I can to win.
“I have been thinking about it for a long time on how I’m going to beat him. He’s a very technical fighter, he’s an Olympic gold medalist, he’s really good with distance, he’s great with jabs, straights. I’m thinking I have a chance because I’m an orthodox so I can surprise him.”
Francisco experienced his best success as a junior bantamweight, defeating contenders Ricardo Nunez and Duangpetch Kokietgym en route to earning an interim WBA title. He relocated briefly to the United States to train in Los Angeles, but suffered a decision loss to Chris Avalos in 2013.
Rigondeaux, though undefeated and No. 5 in THE RING’s Pound-for-Pound rankings, has endured a tumultuous past month, having been stripped of his WBO junior featherweight title, and effectively stripped of the WBA belt as well after being designated a “champion in recess” due to inactivity.
Rigondeaux hasn’t fought since New Year’s Eve 2014, when he stopped Hisashi Amagasa in Japan in 11 rounds.
Francisco, who now trains out of Manny Pacquiao’s MP Gym in Davao City, has fought just once since suffering a shocking knockout loss to local contender Jason Canoy this past May by first round knockout.
Francisco says he had been sick leading up to the fight, but acknowledges the loss may have made him a more attractive opponent for bigger name fighters.
“He saw that I lost in the first round in GenSan because I was sick. That’s OK with me,” said Francisco, who is trained by Pacquiao assistant Nonoy Neri.
“If he beats me, that’s OK. But what would be great is if I beat him and that’s really what I’m going to do.
“If I beat him my life will be better and I’ll get more popular but I’ll have to be really good to beat him. I’ll give it beyond 100 percent just to beat him.”
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @RyanSongalia.