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Why the John Riel Casimero-Nonito Donaire unification fight really fell apart

·Combat columnist
·4 min read
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A hugely significant fight in the bantamweight division between John Riel Casimero and Nonito Donaire slated for Aug. 14 fell apart over a disagreement regarding drug testing for the bout, but that wasn't the only issue.

Casimero’s team received the drug testing application from the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) on June 25, and had completed it and returned it to Rachel Donaire by 1:03 p.m. on June 26, according to an email from VADA president Dr. Margaret Goodman. Rachel is the wife of Nonito and serves as his manager and trainer.

That was well within the June 27 deadline that the Donaires had given Team Casimero to sign up for the VADA testing.

But early on June 26, Rachel told Yahoo Sports she felt that Casimero co-promoter Sean Gibbons of MP Promotions “was making a mockery of the entire thing.” At about 7:30 a.m. that day, fed up, she said she pulled the fight.

“This whole thing has been a game to them from the very start,” she said.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 19: John Riel Casimero (L) and Nonito Donaire (R) pose after attending fight night between Naoya Inoue and Michael Dasmarinas for the WBA/IBF bantamweight championship at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas on June 19, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)
John Riel Casimero (L) and Nonito Donaire (R) were set to fight before issues arose between their teams. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Nonito knocked out Nordine Oubaali on May 29 to become the WBC bantamweight champion. Casimero has been the WBO bantamweight champion since 2019.

The Donaires have been champions of drug testing and have demanded their opponents agree to complete testing by VADA before they’ll sign a contract to fight.

Gibbons, though, has been irate at what he said were Rachel’s mischaracterizations and said Casimero has always been on board with being tested.

Things got so bad between the sides that Andy Foster, the executive officer of the California State Athletic Commission, called a meeting between them over Zoom to try to find a solution. Both sides apologized, but only days later, they’re back at each other’s throats.

“It’s bulls*** that they’re trying to make it look like Casimero is running away from testing or is somehow afraid to be tested,” Gibbons told Yahoo Sports. “They’re saying we had the paperwork for five days, but that’s not what the email from Margaret Goodman says.”

Email from VADA president Dr. Margaret Goodman indicating John Riel Casimero submitted his application form on June 26.
Email from VADA president Dr. Margaret Goodman indicating John Riel Casimero's team had received the drug testing application on June 25, and had completed and returned it on June 26.

Rachel said she and Nonito had agreed to pay for the testing for both sides, and according to Goodman’s email, the Donaires turned their completed application in to VADA on June 22 at 12:31 p.m.

Gibbons is angry because Rachel keeps harping on the fact that Gibbons was slow to file the forms. He posted a screenshot on social media of what appeared to be the top part of the form, and Rachel Donaire said that was disingenuous. She said she felt Gibbons was trying to make it look like Casimero’s side had signed up for VADA when it had not.

But Gibbons pointed to Goodman’s email to Donaire. Goodman wrote, “6/25/21 at 8:45 AM per TGB’s request, I emailed Sean Gibbons the whereabouts and application forms that needed to be completed.”

She added that she received the whereabouts form at 1:02 p.m. on June 26 and the completed application a minute later.

But Rachel, who deleted her tweet about the deadline being on June 27, said she is convinced Gibbons was playing games.

“Nonito got tired of the games,” Rachel said. “If we didn’t press them and say the fight would be canceled, this would have gone on for a week or more. The amount of smoke and mirrors through this has been absolutely ridiculous. It’s making fun of the testing agency and it’s making fun of the fans who have no idea what the hell is going on.”

Rachel said she and her husband, who is Filipino, were also angry that Casimero was making tweets using the hashtag “#RealFilipino.”

“He used that hashtag #RealFilipino because Nonito lives in the U.S. and he lives in the Philippines, so that’s just basically bringing race into it and trying to divide a race in half.”

Both fighters were born in the Philippines.

Gibbons, though, scoffed at that.

“So she’s going to cancel a fight because John Casimero, who was born in the Philippines and lives in the Philippines, used a hashtag calling himself a real Filipino?” he said. “Uh, OK. Seriously? This is what that has come to? They tried to make Casimero look like he was avoiding drug testing, when nothing is further from the truth. We got the papers on the 25th and we turned them in on the 26th.

“This whole thing is ridiculous and there’s so much nonsense and disinformation out there.”

Casimero is going to fight Guillermo Rigondeaux on Aug. 14 instead. If he wins, both sides said they’re willing to revisit the fight. But the hard feelings it’s created are likely to linger.

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