REY Loreto hopes to join the elite group of Jerwin Ancajas, Donnie Nietes, and Milan Melindo as the country’s current world boxing champions.
The Filipino vies for the World Boxing Association (WBA) strawweight title on Saturday against defending reigning champion Knockout CP Freshmart (Thammanoon Niyomtrong) at the Chonburi City Hall in Thailand.
The 26-year-old native of Davao City is ranked no. 1 by the WBA and serves as mandatory challenger of Freshmart, who will be making the third defense of his 105-pound title.
Both champion and challenger tipped in at exactly 105 pounds during Friday's official weigh-in.
Loreto’s 23-13-0 record (15 KOs), may not really look impressive, but the challenger has been on a roll going to the 12-round fight after winning six of his last seven bouts by way of knockouts.
The winning streak saw him winning over highly-touted foes such as Pornsawan Porpramook, the former WBA titleholder, in Bangkok, Thailand, and a pair of stoppages against former International Boxing Federation (IBF) champion Nkosinathi Joyi of Monaco in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
His last match against Rungrit Sor Visetkit ended in a technical knockout win at the Bangkok University in Thailand August of last year.
A victory against the Thai champ would made the La Trinidad, Benguet-based fighter the Philippines’ latest world champion after Ancajas (IBF super flyweight), Nietes (IBF flyweight), and Melindo (IBF light-flyweight).
It won’t be easy, though.
Other than fighting before an expected partisan Thai crowd, Loreto, who once held the fringe International Boxing Organization (IBO) light-flyweight crown, will also have to make do with the unbeaten champion, a former muay thai fighter, who won the WBA crown last year with a unanimous decision win over Byron Rojas of Nicaragua.
Freshmart retained his crown by beating a pair of Japanese in Shin Ono (unanimous decision) and Go Odaira (TKO) just March of this year.
Brico Santig of Highland Boxing handles Loreto, while Joven Jorda is the trainer.
Third man in the ring is Rafael Ramos of Mexico, while the three judges scoring the bout are Ferlin Marsh of New Zealand, Takeshi Shimakawa of Japan, and Ignacio Robles of Panama.