By Rene Bonsubre Jr – Winning on the road is no easy task but John Riel Casimero has made it a career. The Filipino two-division champion has seen his share of ups and downs since turning pro in 2007. He has seen action in nine different countries with a total of twelve fights outside of the Philippines. He lost thrice in those twelve trips but he also scored many of his memorable victories.
The 30 year old Casimero (28-4,19KO’s) will make his second appearance in the United Kingdom when he challenges South African Zolani Tete (28-3,21KO’s) for the WBO Bantamweight world title on November 30 in Birmingham.
Casimero is currently training in the U.S. with Angel ‘Memo’ Heredia as his conditioning coach.
“My training is going great. I will have no problems with my conditioning.” Casimero told this writer in a short chat, “I know I can beat Tete.”
Casimero is aware of the fact that Tete has been talking about a future fight against Japanese star Naoya Inoue.
“Well, that’s his business,” Casimero stated, “But I know I can knock him down, if Tete gets hit hard enough, it will be over. I know Tete doesn’t really want to fight me.”
Aside from Heredia, Casimero will be backed by trainers Nonoy Neri and Lucas Sugar. Even at 118 lbs. Casimero has carried his punching power. In his last two bouts, he showed he can be dangerous even in the late rounds when he turns it into a street fight. He won the interim WBO bantamweight title last April when he knocked out Ricardo Espinoza Franco in the twelfth and final round in Carson, California. Before the fight was stopped, one judge had it even, one scored it for the Mexican and the third judge had it for Casimero. Four months later, Casimero defended his belt on home soil and knocked out another Mexican, Cesar Ramirez, in ten rounds.
The opportunity for Casimero to fight for the interim title came when Tete suffered a shoulder injury last April, days before he was supposed to fight Nonito Donaire in the WBSS bantamweight tournament semi-finals. Tete watched from the sidelines as The Filipino Flash beat substitute Stephon Young of the United States. Donaire’s battle with Inoue last November 7 was a Fight of the Year candidate and no one can blame Tete for thinking about what could have been. Inoue’s dramatic win also brought more focus into the bantamweight division.
Two years ago, Casimero’s plan to win a third world title got ruined when he lost to countryman Jonas Sultan by an upset unanimous decision in an IBF junior bantamweight title eliminator held in Cebu City.
But Casimero has bounced back from previous losses. Nine years ago, he suffered his first career defeat in Mexico by split decision against Ramon Garcia Hirales. Eight months later he was stopped by Moruti Mthalane in five rounds in South Africa. His future seemed bleak but in 2012, he was back in the world title picture when he beat Argentine Luis Alberto Lazarte in ten rounds, a fight marred by an ugly ring riot in Buenos Aires.
Casimero’s reign as the IBF light flyweight champion had three defenses but was highlighted by losing his belt at the scales in the Philippines in 2014. One year later, he would lose in an IBF flyweight title fight to Thai Amnat Ruenroeng by unanimous decision in a dirty fight in Bangkok. But Casimero got his revenge in 2016, when he knocked out Ruenroeng in four rounds in Beijing,China. Casimero’s second IBF world title belt took him to London where he beat Charlie Edwards in ten rounds. Edwards would go on and win the WBC version of the flyweight title.
Tete beat Filipino Arthur Villanueva by a lopsided unanimous decision in 2017 for what was initially the interim version of the WBO title. He would later be elevated to full champion.
It’s been thirteen months since the 31 year old Tete had a fight. Last October 13,2018, he beat Russian Mikhail Aloyan by unanimous decision in Ekatirenburg in what was the third defense of his title. Tete is also a two-division world champ. In 2014, he beat Teiru Kinoshita by unanimous decision in Kobe,Japan for the vacant IBF junior bantamweight title.
Casimero will also be targeting a place in Philippine sports history. There is a short but distinguished list of Filipino boxers who have won three or more world titles in different weight categories – Manny Pacquiao with eight, Nonito Donaire with four plus one interim belt and Donnie Nietes has four.