MANILA – After establishing himself as one of boxing’s ultimate road warriors, IBF junior flyweight titleholder Johnriel Casimero will finally get a home game on July 21 when he makes his third title defense at the SMART Araneta Coliseum in Manila. An opponent has yet to be solidified, but promoter Sammy Gello-ani tells RingTV.com that Mauricio Fuentes (16-2, 10 knockouts) of Colombia is the frontrunner to land the fight.
Casimero (18-2, 10 KOs) of Ormoc City, Philippines, will be making only the second in-ring appearance in his home country in the last four years, after having traveled to five different countries in search of opportunities. Casimero finally struck gold in Buenos Aires last February when he stopped Luis Lazarte in ten rounds to win the interim title, only to have his glory marred by an ugly post-fight riot. Casimero, 23, was later promoted to full champion when Ulises Solis vacated the title.
It had long been a dream of Casimero’s to defend his title at home, but without a major television network backing him or financial assistance from local government, the money to do so wasn’t available. International matchmaker Sampson Lewkowicz, who represents Casimero, feels that his fighter has been underappreciated at home since winning the title.
“I believe that it’s shameful for the networks in the Philippines and the local government not to help a great champ like Casimero, who took a big risk in Argentina with his own life and his team,” said Lewkowicz, who is credited with first exposing the Philippines’ greatest sports icon, Manny Pacquiao, to American audiences. “Hopefully everyone will realize the value and quality of human being he is and open the doors to the big time for him. He deserves that more than anyone else.”
Veteran sports reporter Ronnie Nathanielsz reported that the fight will be televised domestically by TV5, which has televised Casimero’s most recent bouts. He also reported that former WBO junior bantamweight titleholder Marvin Sonsona and unbeaten flyweight contender Froilan “The Sniper” Saludar are under consideration for the fight’s undercard.
Casimero’s trainer, Christopher Tepora Jr., tells RingTV.com that Casimero will begin camp at the Omega Gym in Cebu City on Monday morning after returning from a vacation.
The Araneta Coliseum is best known for being the site of Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier III in 1975, known as “The Thrilla in Manila,” which is universally recognized as one of the greatest fights in boxing history.
Photo: Kashif Shah
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to The Ring magazine and GMA News. He can be reached at [email protected]. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.