By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
WBO interim bantamweight titlist John Riel Casimero will attempt to win his third official world boxing championship when he tangles with WBO regular champion Zolani Tete in a 12 round main event title bout to be held in Birmingham, UK on November 30, 2019.
Tete at 5-9 holds a five inches advantage in height and eight inches in reach over Casimero, apart from fighting in virtually his second home.
Essentially, boxing is about overcoming odds, challenges and adversities. Especially for fighters who are not well endowed physically and/or not gifted with at least above average talent and skills to complement their strength, guts and grit.
One such fighter is Casimero who with his height of 5’4″ was just average when he was still fighting in the flyweights but definitely small for the present division he is fighting at, the bantamweight. He has never been wanting though in power, courage, determination and the virtues of patience and perseverance, that’s for sure.
In fact, anybody could not be faulted for thinking that when Casimero first signed up a contract to fight professionally, the ever present provisos written in fine prints are that he has to almost always contend with the odds, i.e play the role of underdog and to overcome adversities if warranted by the occasion or situation.
it seems as though that Johnriel has come to relish the underdog role and even thrive in unfavorable situations.
Odd, but it seems that Johnriel felt lost and unmotivated when he was not the underdog as when he fought and lost to Jonas Sultan in an All Filipino IBF title eliminator match two years ago.
He proved to be very human too when he failed to adjust to the high altitude of Capetown in South Africa and gasping in the thin air, lost by stoppage to Moruti Mthalane in a failed attempt to wrest the IBF flyweight title in 2011.
He also fell victim to hometown decision earlier, losing to Raul Garcia Hirales in Mexico and ceding the interim International Boxing Organization light flyweight belt he has previously won against Cesar Canchilla.
But, by and large, Johnriel has since and on many occasions, lived up to his reputation as a dangerous underdog and spoiler and one who has great knacks for patiently bucking adversities.
He first came to national and international prominence when he overturned the odds and negated the hometown advantage enjoyed by Argentine Luis Alberto Lazarte in their fight for the interim IBF light flyweight title in Mar de Plata on February 12, 2012.
In that fight, Casimero virtually beat up Lazarte in scoring a 10th round technical knockout victory. The partisan crowd was so incensed by his show of guts that they attacked him and his corner, forcing them to seek refuge and safety in an open area under the ring where they were eventually rescued and escorted out of the arena by responding policemen. They were lucky to escape somehow unscathed.
Johnriel was later elevated to full champion status and went on to defend the title five times, mostly on the road against a bevy of Mexican challengers including future world titlist Pedro Guevarra in Mexico. He would be forced to vacate the 108 lbs title after failing to meet the weight limit in his final defense held in the Philippines.
The next acid test for Casimero was the difficult and mercurial Thai WBC flyweight titlist Amnat Ruenroeng whom he fought twice, first in Bangkok, Thailand where the referee allowed the Thai to employ every dirty tricks and foul tactics to beat him by unanimous decision.
In the rematch held in neutral Beijing, Johnriel again had to patiently put up with Amnat’s rough and rugged style and fouling, including judo like tactics which the referee this time warned against. But Casimero was just biding his time to strike and when it came, the proud Thai found himself struggling vainly and painfully to rise up from the canvas after Johnriel smashed him for the full count with powerfully wicked combinations.
But even as he duly won the prestigious WBC championship, he was not given the respect due him when he went to the UK for the first time to defend it against Charlie Edwards.
Like Frank Cedeno before him who was grossly underestimated and cavalierly treated by the local press, Johnriel was also billed as just a stepping stone for their favored lad, Charlie.
Coincidentally, the first name of the chap Cedeno kayoed for the same WBC title in 1984 was also Charlie, as in Charlie Magri.
Like Magri, Charlie Edwards also made some vow to the effect that he would chop Casimero’s block off. But like in the Magri fight, it was his own block that got hit so hard and so often that his corner surrendered him to a tenth round TKO defeat.
But again, Johnriel would fail in his battle against nature, outgrowing the flyweight division and surrendering his second world title outside the ring. Edwards would succeed him to the throne.
His brief sojourn at super flyweight saw him listless against Sultan, losing by wide decision and wasting a chance to challenge Jerwin Ancajas for his long held IBF crown.
For a time, Johnriel was inactive, his career in limbo.
His weight ballooned and he even contemplated to continue his career as a featherweight.
His first comeback fight was in fact as a featherweight where he appeared sluggish in beating in two rounds an obscure and opt defeated Colombian palooka Jose Pech.
But his camp did not give up on him and helped him to get back in shape and condition, as a full fledged bantamweight.
He seems to be in another career renaissance at 118 lbs. impressively winning his last three fights this year all via the short route against Kenya Yamashita, Ricardo Espinoza Franco and Cesar Ramirez, the last two with the interim WBO bantamweight title on the line.
In his final outing for the year, Johnriel will be up against Zolani Tete for the WBO regular championship this November 30 in Birmingham.
Tete freakish at 5’9″ holds a five inch height advantage and eight inches in reach. He is also fighting in his second home and coming off a 13 bout winning streak since 2012, seven via the short route, including a record setting quickest title defense knockout victory over fellow South African Siboniso Gonya last year. He held wins over Pinoys Jether Oliva and Arthur Villanueva. Curiously, both he and Casimero lost by TKO to Moruti Mthalane.
Will Johnriel rise up to the challenge of bucking the odds and adversity once again?
Can Casimero deliver once more when least expected?