It’s another long trip for Arthur Villanueva. From the Philippines he flew to Hong Kong, then to Dubai, then after another layover, he’ll fly to Moscow before another leg to Astana, Kazakhstan. He’s a little sleepless, tired, but it’s nothing he can’t handle.
In the end, it’ll be worth it, no matter how many connecting flights he has to take back to Cebu City, if he can return with the WBC bantamweight title. Villanueva admits he wasn’t expecting the news when he was informed that he’d face Nordine Oubaali on Saturday, July 6 at the Barys Arena in Kazakhstan.
“He’s good fighter, he has a lot of experience in the amateurs. He’s a world champion and I expect he is a very good fighter,” said Villanueva (32-3-1, 18 knockouts).
He’s had two previous attempts at a world title against McJoe Arroyo and Zolani Tete, but fell short. The last time he faced a championship level fighter, in 2017 against Luis Nery, he was stopped in six rounds. All three are southpaws, but Villanueva has worked hard to learn how to be effective against lefties. He has sparred with three different southpaws at the ALA Gym in Cebu to prepare for this fight.
“I have confidence now, and even [though] I’ve lost to southpaws, I learned a lot in those fights and that’s my advantage,” said Villanueva, who adds that he believes Tete is a better fighter than Oubaali.
Oubaali (15-0, 11 KOs) of Bagnolet, France won the title in January with a unanimous decision over Rau’Shee Warren on the Pacquiao-Broner card in Las Vegas. At 32 he’s two years older than Villanueva, and competed at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
One of the factors that makes Villanueva’s trainer Edito Villamor confident in his fighter’s chances is that he’s facing a shorter fighter than someone like Tete, who used his height and reach to befuddle Villanueva all night. Villanueva is listed at 5’5”, an inch taller than Oubaali.
“We need to win convincingly on this fight,” said Villamor. “Hope Arthur can deliver.”
Villanueva shares his sentiments.
“I’ll give my all to win this fight. It’s now or never.”
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