Friday, March 31, 2023  |



Drian Francisco pounds Mateo Handig in ring return

Fighters Network

MANILA, Philippines – Drian Francisco shook off the rust after 15 months out of the ring, manhandling the smaller Mateo Handig to a 10-round unanimous decision win in their junior featherweight bout  on Saturday at Makati Cinema Square in Makati City, Philippines.

Francisco (29-4-1, 22 knockouts) hadn’t fought since losing a decision to Guillermo Rigondeaux on the Canelo Alvarez-Miguel Cotto undercard. His transition back to the ring was eased by the fact he was the bigger man with the bigger punch, batting Handig (13-13, 7 KOs) around the ring.

The 34-year-old from Sablayan, Mindoro Oriental, Philippines stunned Handig on several occasions with heavy jabs and straight rights, while getting loose with an Emmanuel Augustus-like rhythm which brought some laughs from the crowd.

Handig, whose best success came at 105 pounds, when he upset multiple-time strawweight titleholder Katsunari Takayama in an IBF elimination bout back in 2012, was able to land flashy right hook combinations in close but couldn’t put a dent in Francisco’s armor.

It wasn’t the sort of performance that will get fans excite about “Gintong Kamao” again, but Francisco was content to get in some rounds after a year of nonstop training and the cancellation of several fights.

“I feel tired, but it’s good. I needed 10 rounds. He’s tough, he kept coming. He’s a good fighter, and an experienced fighter,” Francisco said of his compatriot Handig, who has now lost eight straight dating back to 2013.

Francisco’s trainer/manager Joven Jimenez, who also promoted the four-fight card, says he will consult with matchmaker Sean Gibbons to discuss another fight of significance. Francisco’s wishes are for another tune-up followed by a fight on the big stage.

“I wish I can fight Rigondeaux, some other champions. Age doesn’t matter, I feel 25 right now,” said Francisco, a business administration graduate from Colegio de San Sebastian and a former interim WBA junior bantamweight titleholder.

Francisco didn’t have a monopoly on rust that night. Mark Anthony Barriga, a 2012 Olympian representing the Philippines, had just two weeks of training for his eight-rounder against Geboi Mansalayao, and was unable to spar due to a cut over his right eye sustained in his last fight in December.

Even with the rust, junior flyweight Barriga (4-0) managed to maintain his unbeaten record, winning by the scores of 80-72 on one card and 79-73 on the other two. Barriga didn’t get his first knockout win as a professional, despite facing an opponent in Mansalayao (10-25-5, 4 KOs) who has been stopped on ten previous occasions.

Barriga was clipped a few times by right hands early in the fight but managed to evade the majority of big shots, sometimes by a foot or more, with his footwork, upper body movement and ring generalship. Mansalayao appeared significantly larger than the 5’2” southpaw but was thoroughly outclassed and appeared beaten by the third round.

Not all of the favorites walked away victorious.

Junior welterweight prospect Joepher Montano (7-1-2, 6 KOs) suffered the first defeat of his career as he was stopped in the sixth by Junar Adante (7-6-1, 4 KOs). Montano, 20, of Bago City, Philippines was met punch for punch by the well-traveled spoiler Adante, and adjusted to the role of boxer by the third round of the scheduled eight-round fight.

Montano began to break down mentally by the fifth round, straying low with punches and intentionally headbutting his opponent while breathing with his mouth wide open. A right hand started the trouble for Montano the following round, and an argument could be made that the stoppage was a few seconds too soon.