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Bantamweight bonanza

The prospects of seeing four Filipino fighters reigning as world bantamweight champions at the same time surfaced yesterday when the International Boxing Federation formally ordered Vincent Astrolabio and Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodriguez to square off for the vacant crown.

Astrolabio earned the shot after stopping Russian Nikolai Potapov last December while Rodriguez got his after downing Gary Antonio Russell in October in fights billed as title eliminators.

The IBF’s move actually came in a bit late as the World Boxing Council had earlier ordered that Nonito Donaire and Australian Jason Moloney to vie for the title.

Moloney, however, has opted to train his sights elsewhere and will pursue the World Boxing Organization jewels possibly against another Filipino, Reymart Gaballo, as both fighters are also ranked highly by the Puerto Rico-based sanctioning body.

Donaire’s new opponent will be selected by the Mexico-based governing body as the four-division world champion bids to regain his lost laurel.

The World Boxing Association, which has headquarters in Panama, is expected to follow suit and could name Japanese Takuma Inoue and Jerwin Ancajas to determine a new champion.

The vacancies were caused by the decision of Japanese Naoya Inoue to relinquish all four titles so he can go after a fourth world title by his planned invasion of the super-bantamweight ranks.

Inoue formally vacated all four titles on 13 January, leaving Donaire and company suddenly drooling over the possibility of winning world crowns.

So far, the Philippines only has one reigning world champion in Melvin Jerusalem, who became the WBO minimumweight titleholder early last month in Osaka where the Bukidnon-born puncher scored a one-punch knockout of Masataka Taniguchi.

Aside from these four, two other Filipinos are booked to fight for world title tries in April.

Former world champion Marlon Tapales and fast-rising contender Jade Bornea are scheduled to fight a week from each other.

Tapales battles Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev for the WBA and IBF super-bantamweight straps on 8 April and Bornea clashes with Argentine Fernando Martinez for the IBF super-fly diadem on 15 April.

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