ONE strawweight champion Joshua Pacio is currently waiting for the date when he and No. 1 contender Jarred Brooks will finally get in the cage to settle their rivalry.
But for now, he has his eyes on the rest of the division as No. 2-ranked Bokang Mansunyane will be taking on No. 3-seeded Hiroba Minowa on July 22 at ONE 159.
Pacio recently revealed who he is backing in this fight between potential title contenders.
“I’m rooting for Bokang [Mansunyane] in this bout. I think he’s more explosive and he’s stronger, plus he can surely strike. So my two cents, Bokang has the edge here,” Pacio mentioned in an interview.
“Anything can happen in this fight, but I’d say Bokang will win via unanimous decision. He could push the pace and control Hiroba [Minowa].”
Both Mansunyane and Minowa have credible claims to being the next man to get a shot at the strawweight title because of their recent performances.
Mansunyane may be coming off a loss to Brooks at ONE 156 this past April, but his head kick knockout of Rene Catalan in December 2020 and the decision victory over Ryuto Sawada have made him a formidable fighter.
Minowa was also a victim of Brooks’ stellar wrestling pedigree, but strong victories against former ONE strawweight titleholder Alex Silva and Pacio’s Team Lakay comrade Lito Adiwang have pushed him near the top of the rankings.
While Brooks has first crack at ending the nearly 1,170-day streak of Pacio’s title reign, the winner between Mansunyane and Minowa could be next in line.
As fans look to the impending clash, Pacio also took the time to reassure his fans that he will be back in the cage sometime soon following the postponement of their supposed June 3 match.
“My training is going great. We’re more concentrated on techniques and drills. To all our supporters, my apologies if my bout last time was postponed due to a schedule conflict, but we will stay ready,” Pacio lamented.
“Sooner or later, you’ll see me again in the Circle, wait for it! And I’d like to take this opportunity as well to say we truly appreciate all your support and prayers for the team.”
ONE 159 will be headlined by Reinier de Ridder’s defense of his middleweight belt against Vitaly Bigdash as well as Janet Todd taking on Lara Fernandez for the interim atomweight Muay Thai title.