Espinoza-Casimero to be for interim bantam title

Ricardo "Hindu" Espinoza and John Riel Casimero will meet for a vacant interim bantamweight world title on Saturday after the WBO ruled in favor of the petition filed trying to force the bout last week.

The WBO ruled on Tuesday that Espinoza (23-2, 20 KOs), 21, of Mexico, and Casimero (26-4, 17 KOs), 30, a former flyweight and junior flyweight world titleholder, would meet for the interim belt because the title has been inactive.

Full titlist Zolani Tete is tied up in the World Boxing Super Series tournament and due to meet Nonito Donaire in a title unification fight in the delayed semifinals on April 27. Espinoza, meanwhile, has been waiting as Tete's mandatory challenger, so the WBO ruled he could meet Casimero.

The fight will take place on the Premier Boxing Champions card headlined by the Danny Garcia-Adrian Granados welterweight fight at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.

Espinoza was rewarded in part because of his activity. The fight with Casimero will be his third in five months and seventh in the past year, with each won by knockout.

"I am happy to be fighting for (an interim) world title," Espinoza said. "I have proven that I am ready for the moment. Tijuana will have a new world champion."

All-Star Boxing promoter Felix "Tuto" Zabala, who promotes Espinoza, has been high on him and is pleased he is getting the opportunity.

"We are proud of Espinoza's progress up to date," Zabala said. "He has shown he belongs at the top of the division. We are sure of Espinoza's ability."

In its ruling, the WBO pointed out the relative inactivity of the belt as a key reason for approving the fight.

"Mr. Tete acquired his title on April 22, 2017," the ruling said. "He only defended it on three occasions -- November 18, 2017 against Siboniso Gonya, April 21, 2018 against Omar Narvaez, and on October 13, 2018 against Mikhail Aloyan, who was also his first quarterfinal contender of the WBSS tournament.

"The WBO World Championship Committee recognizes the importance of allowing their champions the discretion to participate in activities they may deem as of career importance, (but) the Committee must also be fair to all of its rated contenders."