richie mepranum
RICHIE MEPRANUM

If Manny Pacquiao has to be away from his congressional office, at least he brought a Sarangani resident with him.

 

While The Fighting Congressman prepares for his biggest opponent to date, flyweight prospect Richie "Magnum" Mepranum trains alongside him at The Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, California.

Though he complains of jet lag and the cooler Autumn weather that contrasts with Manila's perpetual summer heat, Mepranum relishes the opportunity to work alongside Pacquiao, emulating his hero's every training method and tactic, hoping to recreate the success Pacquiao has achieved.

"I just follow whatever Manny does," says the 23-year-old Mepranum, who will face Anthony Villareal on November 13 at Cowboys Stadium in a preliminary bout to the Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito fight. Mepranum-Villareal is scheduled for eight rounds and will appear on the untelevised portion of the Top Rank promoted boxing event.

In addition to being his gym mate and congressman, Pacquiao also promotes Mepranum under his MP Promotions banner. Michael Koncz, who advises Pacquiao, also guides Mepranum's career.

Like Margarito, the 22-2-1 (5 KO) Mepranum is also on a mission for redemption. The Maasim, Sarangani, Philippines native moved to the forefront of his country's long list of prospects this March when he outclassed Mexican Hernan "Tyson" Marquez, who entered the fight with an intimidating record of 27-0 (20 KO). But just three months later, Mepranum fell short in a WBO title fight, succumbing in five rounds to Julio Cesar Miranda.

"It was just one of those nights," explains Mepranum of his experience in Monterrey, Mexico. "I just didn't feel right that night and you'll see better fights from me in the future."

A conversation with Mepranum's trainer, Jonathan "Nathan" Tinagsa, reveals deleterious circumstances prior to the Miranda clash.

"We came to Los Angeles only two weeks before the fight," Tinagsa says. "We were suffering from jet lag and then he got the flu so he couldn't train. When he recovered a little bit, I forced him to train but I couldn't push him too hard because he was still weak. We arrived in Mexico just three days before the fight. It was very sad."

Tinagsa, who discovered Mepranum as a 12-year-old boy, says that his fighter was down for awhile after the defeat, but found motivation from his promoter/elected provincial constituent.

"Manny always tells him to do his best to recover when he lost. Manny tries to encourage him and knows he can win this fight. [Pacquiao] really wants him to win this fight so he can prove to people that he can still become a champion."

Mepranum's opponent Villareal, a 10-3 (5 KO) resident of Perris, California, holds a split decision victory over previously unbeaten prospect Manuel Roman and a decision loss to Cebuano Milan Melindo. Mepranum says that he only knows that his opponent likes to move.

Villareal's team is no stranger to Mepranum, however. Al Franco, Villareal's manager, says that he has been coming to Wild Card longer than Pacquiao has, and has observed Mepranum for a number of years.

"I've seen Richie," says Franco. "In fact I saw him the other day.

"We sparred him last year and I remember Anthony being stronger. Afterwards, Anthony asked what his record was and he was something like 20-1. He said, 'What?! Why don't we fight him?' A year later, here we are.

"He's a good little boxer, but he gets a little wild sometimes," continues Franco. "He gets a little desperate and we have to take those opportunities and capitalize on his bad habits. Not his mistakes because we all make mistakes, but his bad habits."

Says Tinagsa: "We saw the record of the opponent but I told Richie that even though it's not a really good record, I told him to be careful because his opponent is a hard puncher. The knockout percentage of his opponent is also good. We need to be careful in this fight."

(Editor's note: Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America [BWAA] and a contributor to GMANews.TV. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ryansongalia).