REIGNING IBF flyweight champion Johnriel Casimero is looking at a voluntary title defense in December, and then may end up facing Chinese superstar Zou Shiming as his mandatory challenger in May next year.
Casimero graced the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at Shakey’s Malate Tuesday, more than a week after he defended the 112-pound class crown with a 10th round stoppage of British fighter Charlie Edwards at the O2 Arena in London.
The 24-year-old boxer from Ormoc City in Leyte, also a former world light-flyweight champion, said he’s willing to take on anybody in his division, where Filipino fighters normally reside.
Casimero’s promoter, Sammy Gelo-Ani, is trying to set up a voluntary or optional defense for his ward in December against anybody ranked by the IBF inside the top 15.
Then they will be mandated by the IBF to defend the crown next year against the No. 1 challenger. They are given until February to negotiate the fight and stage it 90 days after.
“That means if we negotiate on February, we can hold the fight in May. Right now, Zou Shiming, looms as the opponent. He is the No. 3 contender because the top two slots are vacant,” said Gelo-Ani in the session presented by San Miguel Corp., Accel, Shakey’s, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
Filipino boxers Brian Viloria and Donnie Nietes, former world champions in the light-flyweight division, are now in the flyweight class, and there’s a possibility that they may end up high in the IBF rankings.
“If that’s the case, then we will be mandated to fight them. But if we have a choice, we’d rather fight someone else. We don’t want to pit a Filipino champion against another Filipino,” the manager said.
A champion cannot decline a mandatory challenger or may risk losing the title. In this case, according to Gelo-Ani, it’s the mandatory challenger, in case it’s a Filipino, who can decline the fight.
“We’d rather fight someone else,” he said, adding that because it’s very difficult to stage a big fight here in the Philippines, Casimero may end up defending his title in Japan, Mexico, England or the United States.
Casimero, who was joined at the forum by his trainer Jhun Agrabio and cutman Aldrin Sta. Maria, said he’s comfortable at 112 pounds after previously losing the light-flyweight crown on the scales.
“I’m comfortable in this weight class,” said Casimero, who sees himself defending the title a few times before he chases reigning super-flyweight (115 lb) champion and pound-for-pound champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez of Nicaragua.
“For now, what is sure is that Johnriel’s next fight is an optional defense. Gonzalez will come later. But not this time. Let him defend his title first and be the kingpin of the flyweight division,” said Gelo-Ani.