Boxing: I'm ready to land world title - Casey
WILLIE 'Big Bang' Casey's Rocky Balboa-like rise to stardom will continue unabated when he challenges Cuba's Guillermo 'The Jackal' Rigondeaux for his WBA world super-bantamweight title in March.
The battle of the southpaws will go ahead on St Patrick's weekend next year, with Citywest Hotel in Dublin looking the most likely venue.
Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic champion, claimed the WBA title on a split decision over Ricardo Cordoba -- who Bernard Dunne beat for the same title last year -- in Texas last month in just his seventh professional fight.
Dolphil Promotions, who manage Limerick native Casey, confirmed that a deal has been struck between them, Rigondeaux's Cork-born manager Guy Hyde and Top Rank Promotions.
"The deal is in place. Ireland can now prepare itself for one of the greatest fights ever held over here. You have a two-time Olympic gold medalist and WBA world champion against Ireland's 'Cinderella Man' -- a man who has beaten all the odds to get to where he is now," said Daniel Halpin of Dolphil.
Rigondeaux is no stranger to Ireland as he won gold at the 2001 World Championships in Belfast just a year after he won gold at the Sydney Olympics.
"I am very happy to bring my world title to Ireland, the same place where I won my first world amateur title. I have watched Casey and I believe this will be a tough fight... but I believe I will remain champion after this fight," said Miami-based Rigondeaux.
However, promoter Don O'Leary, of Dolphil, reckons that Casey, from Southill on Shannonside, can shock the world of pro boxing again.
"We are confident Willie will beat the Cuban, otherwise we wouldn't put him in with him," he said. "Willie is good enough to fight any of them at his weight. This is a great story in tough times -- let's get the whole country behind Willie Casey.
"Willie will be the underdog going into this fight, but he was the underdog in the Prizefighter Series and he won that and he was the underdog going into his European title challenge and he won that also."
Having won both the Prizefighter trophy and the European title this year, Casey says he is confident that his spectacular rise to stardom will continue next March.
"As I have shown so far, the bigger these occasions get, the better I will get. Ireland has been waiting a while for their next world champion and I am ready to keep that belt here in Ireland," said Casey, who will now have to relinquish his European belt, which he was slated to defend against Kiko Martinez in March.