Wednesday, March 22, 2023  |


Casimero faces Mepranum as promoter maps out next title bid

Image credit: Team Casimero

MANILA, Philippines – Former two-time titleholder Johnriel Casimero will end a nine-month layoff this month when he faces compatriot Richie Mepranum in a 10-round junior bantamweight bout on June 25 at Iligan Public Market in Iligan City, Philippines.

Casimero (23-3, 15 knockouts), of Ormoc City, had been inactive since dropping the IBF flyweight title in December and announcing his intentions to campaign at 115 pounds. He won the 112-pound title after avenging a previous defeat to Amnat Ruenroeng, knocking him out in four rounds in May 2016, and made one defense, a 10th-round technical knockout of Charlie Edwards in September on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin-Kell Brook in London. Casimero had previously held the IBF junior flyweight title.

Mepranum (31-6-1, 8 KOs), of Maasim, Sarangani, Philippines, last fought in October, being stopped in two rounds by Luis Nery in Mexico. He had twice challenged unsuccessfully for world titles, being stopped in five rounds by Julio Cesar Miranda for the vacant WBO flyweight title in 2010, and in nine rounds against Juan Francisco for the unified WBO/WBA flyweight titles in 2014.

A Facebook message to Mepranum was not responded to by the time of this story’s publication. Casimero’s trainer Jhun Agrabio says Casimero had left his hometown of Ormoc City, Leyte, Philippines to train with him in Manila three weeks ago.

“[It’s a] good fight for Casimero,” said Agrabio. “Mepranum is not an easy opponent.”

What happens next for the 27-year-old Casimero if he wins isn’t so clear-cut. The quickest route to a world title would be through the IBF, which has rated Casimero No. 4 for the title held by Casimero’s countryman Jerwin Ancajas.

Ancajas is set to make his mandatory defense against Teiru Kinoshita on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn on July 2 in Australia, and Casimero would be the highest ranked contender afterwards, and in line for an elimination bout to be named mandatory challenger.

But Gello-ani, concerned about whether the fight would be financially worthwhile since neither Casimero nor Ancajas have had their recent title fights broadcasted on television in the Philippines, would prefer to opt for another route to a title. He also isn’t keen on waiting another nine months for Ancajas’ next mandatory defense.

“It’s high time [for a Filipino vs Filipino world title fight] but the problem for me is the TV networks are not working,” said Gello-ani.

“That’s the reason it cannot happen in the Philippines. As a promoter I would rather fight outside where the purse is a bigger amount. So it’s useless, not unless the television will finance a really good amount of money that will become attractive for the fighters. Then I think that would happen.”

The plan for Casimero now is to wait and see what happens on July 2. If Ancajas wins, Gello-ani says they’ll look elsewhere. But if Kinoshita wins, Gello-ani wants to position Casimero for the next shot.

“I’ll be honest with you, I care for Ancajas. I don’t think Ancajas will get good money meeting with Casimero,” said Gello-ani, who had previously promoted Ancajas.

“I said to [Ancajas] last time, if I have my way, I will not allow you to meet with Casimero. I told him that, you better make that defense a success because otherwise we will be running after Kinoshita. But if you win, I would rather get another opportunity for Casimero from one of the other organizations.”

Casimero is also rated No. 7 by the WBC, but that title held by Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai is tied up in a mandatory rematch with Roman Gonzalez on Sept. 9. Casimero is currently unrated by the WBO, of whom the highly regarded Japanese fighter Naoya Inoue is champion, and the WBA, which is held by England’s Khalid Yafai.

Coincidentally, Ruenroeng, the Thai who Casimero knocked out to win his last world title, will also fight in the Philippines when he faces Dado Cabintoy on a card in Calamba City on June 23.