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Boxing: I'll take world title belt - Casey

THOMOND PARK was temporarily the home of two former European champions yesterday, as Willie 'Big Bang' Casey met Guillermo 'The Jackal' Rigondeaux to publicise their forthcoming world-title fight.

Cuban-born Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic champion, will put his WBA world super-bantamweight crown on the line against Casey in a battle of the unbeaten southpaws at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin on March 19.

The man from Southill in Limerick, who boxes out of Phil Sutcliffe and Don O'Leary's DolPhil stable and has relinquished his European title to challenge Miami-based Rigondeaux, said that the belt won't be leaving Ireland.

But Rigondeaux, who is no stranger to winning in Ireland as he won his first amateur world title in Belfast in 2001, sees things differently, at least according to his interpreter Ricky de Cubas: "Guillermo says that there have been two champions that have come to Ireland and left their belts and he's not going to be the third. He plans on winning the fight."

Casey (below) accepted that Rigondeaux, who is managed by Cork's Gary Hyde, had an amazing record but couldn't resist a tongue-in-cheek shot at Hyde -- he claimed he fell asleep watching Rigondeaux win the belt against Ricardo Cordoba in Texas last November.

Meanwhile, Ken Egan and John Joe Joyce's Miami team have been left with a mountain to climb in the World Series of Boxing Americas group after losing 5-0 away to Los Angeles.

The win lifts LA 10 points clear of third-placed Miami with just five matches left in the series. Mexico City are in second spot, while Memphis are propping up the four-team table.

Egan lost a split-decision to Ukrainian light-heavyweight Vyacheslav Shabranskij, the Kiev-born fighter earning a 48-47 46-49 49-46 verdict from the three judges at the Avalon in Hollywood.

Joyce conceded a walkover to LA middleweight Russell Lamour after being laid low by flu.

Irish Independent