The Bantamweight division is currently one of the most interesting, with a host of brilliant match ups to be made, a number that are already on the horizon. Bouts like Naoya Inoue Vs Nonitor Donaire and Nordine Oubaali Vs Takuma Inoue are both fantastic bouts, and with the likes of Zolani Tete, Luis Nery, Liborio Solis, Jason Moloney and Reymart Gaballo all looking for a big fight the division really is red hot.
This coming Saturday the divisional talent overflow is in action as the WBO "interim" champion John Riel Casimero (27-4, 18) defends his belt against Mexican challenger Cesar Ramirez (18-3, 11). Whilst Casimero is the "lesser" of the WBO champions, behind Tete, it's been almost a year since Tete has been in the ring and it's unclear when he will return. The winner of this bout will be waiting for Tete's return to the ring, though by then may have found themselves being upgraded by the WBO.
Casimero won the interim title earlier this year, when he scored a 12th round win over Ricardo Espinoza Franco to become a "3 weight world champion", adding this title to reigns at Light Flyweight and Flyweight. Although the win over Franco wasn't televised footage from it leaked online and it was an enthralling fight, with Casimero finally finishing off Franco in the final round of a bout that was incredibly close. That win was Casimero's second as a fully fledged Flyweight, following a February win over Japanese foe Kenya Yamashita, and in that bout Casimero looked sharp, dangerous and like he really meant business. At times though Casimero has looked uninterested, bored and like he's lacked motivation. When the motivation is there he's fantastic, but he really does need a fire under his ass.
Despite being a rather lazy and frustrating fighter at times Casimero is a real natural talent, and someone who has had to do things the hard way through much of his career. He gained a reputation as a road warrior, fighting in Nicaragua, Mexico, South Africa, Argentina, Panama, Thailand, China and the UK all in the space of 7 years. Not only was he on the road but he was also in with stiff competition, including Cesar Canchila, Moruti Mthalane, Luiz Alberto Lazarte, Pedro Guevara, Amnat Ruenroeng and Charlie Edwards. Not only he a road warrior, but he was a world class fighting, picking up several big wins on the road.
As a fighter Casimero is a clean hitting, sharp boxer-puncher. He's not the most destructive single puncher fighter out there, but he's got that razor sharp power, where he can bust people up with accurate clean shots. He has that solid power in both hands, and his power stays with him late into fights. He's skilled, has good ring IQ but is, as mentioned, lazy and somewhat under-sized for a Bantamweight, but at 30 is a fully grown man, unlike some of the youngsters breaking through the division.
Sadly it's less easy to say much about Ramirez, a man who has done nothing to be in a world title fight, even an interim one, and really will not be given much of a chance coming into this bout. The 31 year old Mexican challenger has been a professional since 2012 and has lacked a win of any real note. Despite that he has shared the ring with some pretty decent fighters, most notably Alejandro Gonzalez Jr and Ryan Burnett, who both clearly beat Ramirez, with Gonzalez stopping him in 6 and Burnett almost shutting him out over 10 rounds.
When looking through Ramirez's record for a win of some kind of note we really struggle, with the best being last year's 12th round TKO over Eliseo Velez. Sadly that sort of says it all, about Ramirez, who has not done anything at all to deserve a shot, with most of his wins so far coming against fighters with losing records.
Although not a total scrub it's still fair to say that Ramirez shouldn't be in a world title fight and will be little more than target practice for Casimero. The Filipino does deserve some easier bouts at home, given all of his big road bouts, but this is a rather pathetic first defense of the interim title. He will have things all his own way, chipping away at Ramirez until the time comes for the referee to save the challenger.
Prediction TKO7 - Casimero
Over the past few years we've began to see more and more fighters being fast tracked. These have included fighters Kosei Tanaka, Vasyl Lomachenko and Naoya Inoue, who have all claimed world titles in double quick time. The next fighter attempting to win a world title in under 10 bouts is Englishman Charlie Edwards (8-0, 3), who is looking to claim the IBF Flyweight title this coming Saturday, in his 9th professional bout. He's looking to take that title from the very well travelled and genuinely world class Johnriel Casimero (22-3, 14), who looks to record the first defense the title he won in May in China.
Usually we're excited to see fighters being fast tracked. Out excitement in regards to fighters like Hinata Maruta is well known. Sadly for Edwards the problem he's facing here isn't that he's being fast tracked, it's that he's being moved from British level to world level without having gained the skills and experience to really have a fighting chance.
The 23 year old British fighter was a good amateur before turning professional last year. In September last year he claimed the English Flyweight title, beating Louis Norman, and defended it once against Phil Smith. He has also claimed the WBC International Silver Flyweight title, with a win over Luke Wilton.
In many ways Edwards has done what has been asked of him. Sadly for him there is a huge gulf, between the level he has been fighting at and world class. In fact he's not just taking a leap up in class but an elevator up and he has shown little to suggest that he should be taking that ride at this time. He been able to go 10 rounds, albeit against British level fighters who looked relatively limited themselves. What would have been better for the youngster would have been to have fought some higher level fighters to develop the skills and test himself well ahead of a world title opportunity.
Whilst there is a huge gulf between British level Flyweights and world class Flyweights a fight with some one like Ramon Garcia Hirales, Masayuki Kuroda, Alberto Rossel or Pablo Carrillo would have done the world of good for the youngster and helped prepare him for a world class fighter.
Whilst Edwards is a talented but possibly unprepared fighter the same cannot be said of Casimero who is experienced, proven, talented and as gutsy as they come. Those guts have seen him become a modern day road warrior and a 2-weight world champion. He's been fighting at world level since December 2009, when he beaten Cesar Canchila in Nicaragua and has since fought in Mexico, South Africa, Argentina, Panama, Thailand and China. Not only has he been fighting on the road but he's been winning there two with his most famous wins coming in Argentina, against Luis Alberto Lazarte, and in China, where he stopped Amnat Ruenroeng earlier this year.
Technically speaking Casimero is bit crude, he's open and defensively he has holes. But he is a world class fighter with explosive speed and thudding power. He's not a steam roller in the ring but having a fight with him is a terrible idea and he's relentless in his pursuit of victory. That was seen when he defeated Lazarte and when he defeated Ruenroeng, with the referee and judges being against him in both fights.
We mentioned that Edwards could have done with facing some fringe level guys in preparation for this bout. As for Casimero, who has faced a who's who including Ardin Diale, Canchila, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Moruti Mthalane, Lazarte, Pedro Guevara and Ruenroeng, twice, his competition is stellar and he has scarcely come up short. In fact the loss where he embarrassed himself was his defeat to Mthalane which came far too soon for the Filipino, and we suspect this opportunity has come to soon for Edwards.
Whilst Casimero is flawed he will know that he needs to keep this out of the judges hands that will likely inspire him to be more aggressive than usual. Edwards will start well, bouyed on by his home fans, but we suspect that Casimero's proven world class ability and power will play their part in the latter stages with Edwards simply being ground down by the Filipino.
One of the most controversial bouts last year saw IBF Flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng (17-0, 5) [อำนาจ รื่นเริง] successfully retain his title with a decision win over Filipino Johnriel Casimero (21-3, 13). The bout was marred by fouling and wrestling from Ruenroeng, in fact the wrestling completely destroyed any semblance of a boxing contest and annoyingly it was all allowed from referee Larry Doggett, who was embarrassingly bad.
This coming Wednesday, 11 months after their first bout, the men will meet again, this time on neutral ground in China with referee being the world class Tony Weeks. This time around we hope that boxing will be the order of the day, and not wrestling.
At his best Ruenroeng is a real nightmare for anyone at 112lbs. He's 36 but fights like a fresh-faced 20-something year old, he's got great reflexes, he's physically strong, and has freakishly long arms. Despite those traits he is better known for simply being “tricky”, “difficult” and “frustrating”. A fighter who has skills but doesn't rely on his skills and instead relies on tricks, something that seems to be used to cover up what flaws he has, including possible issues with stamina.
When it comes to Casimero the Filipino was a fantastic Light Flyweight, combining skills, power, speed and genuine explosiveness to be an offensive nightmare. He combined those traits with a road warriors mentality and a real mental toughness, a toughness that saw him claim major wins across the planet. At Flyweight he may be outsized and out powered, but he is still explosive and could, potentially, still give some very good fighters some absolute nightmares.
Given how the first fight went we are expecting the rules to be bent by Amnat, but we think that the Thai will be punished for repeated infractions this time around. Notably what pure boxing did occur in the first fight saw Amnat look the better man, getting his shots first and and getting away without taking much in return.
If Amnat can box, and frustrate Casimero legally then there is very little chance for Casimero, who will have little more than a punchers chance. If, however, Casimero can control the action, make it a fight, albeit a clean one, then he has a chance to wear down the 36 year old Thai, who has shown some questionable stamina and is a very advanced age for a Flyweight.
We suspect Amnat will win, we suspect the bout will be messy and dirty but we think the win will be less controversial than the one he scored when the men first met just less than a year ago.
The Flyweight division really is red hot at the moment and it has such a lovely mix of fighters in it that it's got something for everyone. If you like your wars you have fighters like Koki Eto and Takuya Kogawa, if you like your boxer's you have Kazuto Ioka and Juan Francisco Estrada and if you like your seek and destroy types then you have Roman Gonzalez. It also has one of the sports most talented “spoilers”, IBF champion Amnat Ruenroeng (15-0, 5), who will be defending his title on June 27th against one of the sports most explosive little men, Johnriel Casimero (21-2, 13).
The first thing to note about the contest is that it's the second mandatory defense for Ruenroeng, who has quickly developed an impressive resume. The champion won his title in his 12th bout, beating the under-rated Rocky Fuentes, and has since defended it thrice. The first defense was a voluntary in Japan against the aforementioned Ioka, the second was back in Thailand against McWilliams Arroyo in a mandatory defense, whilst most recent Ruenroeng travelled to Macau and upset for amateur rival Zou Shiming.
The second thing to note is that this bout is in Thailand, a country that renowned for being very difficult for visiting fighters. We're not suggesting that Ruenroeng has had many gifts, though the Arroyo fight certainly could have gone the other way, but we have seen Thai's get some very dubious decisions in their favour at home. It's sometimes joked that a fighter needs to get a knockout in Germany to get a draw and, at times, the same can be said of Thailand. Of course there have been visiting fighters winning world titles in Thailand, notably Manny Pacquiao claimed his first world title in the country, but they are certainly rare.
The champion, a former amateur stand out, has quickly proven his ability and shown why he was fast tracked as a professional. He was a professional for less than 24 months when he claimed his world title and has really grown in to the role of being a world champion. Unfortunately for many of peers, and fans in general, he's not the most attractive fighter to watch but he has a style that he has almost perfect. He's quick, very sharp, accurate and strong. He's far from a big puncher but he's so sharp with his counters and has such impressive reach that he neutralises opponents on the outside and manages to tie them up and frustrate them on the inside.
Whilst Ruenroeng is widely regarded as being a level, or two, behind the likes of Gonzalez and Estrada he's got a style that will make him very difficult to beat and he always seems to look relaxed in the ring, even when he's travelled to face big names in their backyard's.
Aged 35 Ruenroeng is ancient for a Flyweight, in fact he's older than Pongsaklek Wonjongkam was the last time he held a world title, though he's a very young 35 and hasn't got the miles on the clock that many fighters his age have. In fact for a Thai he's really fresh and hasn't been through a gruelling career which has prematurely aged him. He may age over night but it doesn't seem likely, yet.
Whilst the champion has carved out an impressive resume in recent years the challenger hasn't done badly either and in fact the 25 year old Casimero may well be the sports top road warrior right now. His first 13 bouts were all at home in the Philippines though since then he has travelled to Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama, South Africa and Argentina and fought 7 of his last 10 bouts outside of his homeland.
Not only has Casimero travelled but he's done amazingly well on the road. On his travels he has beaten the likes of Cesar Canchila in Nicaragua, Luis Alberto Lazarte in Argentina, in a bout marred by a post-fight riot, Pedro Guevara in Mexico, a win that looks even better now given that Guevara is a world champion himself, and Luis Alberto Rios in Panama.
Casimero is sensationally talented boxer-puncher. He's blessed with lightening speed, real bravery, and spiteful power, something his record doesn't really reflect in terms of numbers. Despite a sub 57% stoppage rate Casimero has impressively stopped the likes of Ardin Diale, Canchila, Lazarte, Felipe Salguero and Armando Santos. He really seems to have grown into his power and, having outgrown the Light Flyweight division, he's certainly growing into a man.
Talking about Casimero as a Light Flyweight, that was here he really made his name. It was at 108lbs that Casimero claimed the WBO interim title and later the IBF title. Back then he appeared to look like a boy though now he's began to look like a man in the ring a trio of stoppages backs that up. The fact Casimero has out grown the Light Flyweight division also suggests that he's grown into being a Flyweight and isn't just some “blown up” fighter from the weight below.
Coming in to this bout the question will be whether or not Casimero can get in and land before Ruenroeng ties him up. If Ruenroeng can keep a busy jab and keep Casimero at range this really could be a very dull, frustrating and one sided bout. If however Casimero can slip the jab, something he has the ability to do, and catch the Thai with his explosive shots then there is a good chance that this ends up having it's moments of real excitement.
For Ruenroeng to win he needs to do what he does so well and use his speed and reach to land single shots at range then frustrate and neutralise his challenger. If Ruenroeng manages that then it'll be an ugly win for the Thai who will add another impressive victory to his record. For Casimero to win he needs to be as explosive as possible and land with his lightning quick shots. If he lands before he gets tied up then there is a great chance that Ruenroeng will be forced to fight back at a pace he's not comfortable with.
Sadly for Casimero we do believe he'll need to dominate to win and, due to the styles, we don't see that happening. Instead we think Amnat takes this with a clear but frustrating decision.
(Image courtesy of Kiatkreerin)
This coming Saturday may be all about "Mayday" and the latest chapter in the Floyd Mayweather Jr story as he takes on Marcos Maidana but for Filipino fans their attention may well be closer to home as one of their world champions, Johnriel Casimero (19-2, 11) defends his IBF Light Flyweight title.
The champion might not be on the same planet of popularity as Manny Pacquiao or even Nonito Donaire but he's a man who infamous through out the boxing world. Sadly Casimero's infamy is less down to him and more down to thuggish behaviour of select fan base in Argentina who hailed him him with chairs in one of the ugliest moments in recent boxing history following his victory over Luis Alberto Lazarte.
Since winning the title, in that aforementioned bout in Argentina, Casimero has been over-looked. He has defended his belt 3 times against good competition defeating Pedro Guevara-in Guevara's native Mexico, Luis Alberto Rios-in Rios's home of Panama and Felipe Salguero-in the Philippines. He will now be looking to add the name of Mauricio Fuentes (16-2, 10) to his record as Fuentes becomes his 4th title challenger.
Fuentes, not to be confused with Mexico's very talented Moises Fuentes, is a little known Colombian fighter who lost 2 of his first 5 fights before running off a pretty looking 13 straight wins. Those wins have allowed him to enter the IBF top 15 despite a real lack of quality and ignoring the fact he has now been inactive for over a year.
Whilst "lack of quality" is a subjective term Fuentes has never beaten a fighter with a winning record, he has never beaten a name opponent, he has never beaten an opponent with any recognisable ranking and has never even fought in a 10, never mind 12, round bout. In fact in 18 bouts the best win on Fuentes's record is likely his 2 wins over Colombian journeyman Alfonso De la Hoz. De La Hoz, currently 13-50-6 (6), is the go to Colombian journeyman who has been in with every emerging fighter the country has had in the lower division over the last decade. The fact Fuentes has beat De La Hoz twice tells us little in all honesty, and that's really his best opponent.
Sadly actual footage of Fuentes is incredibly difficult to come by. Looking at what he's done in his career however it's difficult to see him being any sort of a threat Casimero who is one of the gems of Filipino boxing.
Aged just 24 Casimero has really done a lot more than many fighters older than him. He has already fought on the road in 5 separate countries, he has won a world title on the road and he has shown all the skills that he needs to show for a solid reign. He may not be a super talent, like WBC Light Flyweight champion Naoya Inoue, but he is a genuine talent. He can box, he can move and he can connect with respectable power. It's that power which has seen him stopping world class opponents such as Cesar Canchila, Lazarte and Salguero, and he is getting naturally stronger as he matures to his physical prime.
Whilst Casimero is probably the weakest of the three current world champions at 108lbs, he is still very good and he should have way more than enough to beat Fuentes who is so unproven it's a genuine mystery as to how the IBF can even rank him.
In honesty if Casimero loses here it goes down as the biggest upset of the year by a some margin.
(Image courtesy of boxrec.com)
There is a joke doing the rounds on some boxing websites that Panamanian Guillermo Jones has been calling Filipino fighter John Riel Casimero (18-2, 10) "inactive. Thankfully this weekend sees Casimero returning to the ring for the first time in some 7 months.
As the reigning IBF Light Flyweight champion Casimero is one of boxing's forgotten men. In fact he's almost disappeared into a void shared by not just Guillermo Jones but also Beibut Shumenov.
Casimero's situation unfortunately hasn't been helped by a lack of backing which has seen at least one fight this year fall through. Neither has it been great that he's had to travel for many of his recent contests, in fact 6 of his last 7 have been on the road.
It's been on the road that Casimero has managed to create a name for himself as a genuine road warrior. He's scored victories in Nicaragua, Argentina, Mexico and Panama whilst suffering defeats in South Africa and Mexico with all 6 bouts coming against world ranked fighters such as Cesar Canchila, Moruti Mthalane, Pedro Guervara, Luis Alberto Rios and most notably Luis Alberto Lazarte.
This weekend the prodigal son returns home for his first fight in the Philippines since August 2011 as he takes on the #6 IBF challenger Felipe Salguero (18-4-1, 13) of Mexico. A man many may remember giving Donnie Nietes an incredibly tough contest last year.
For Casimero, 23, this will be the third defense of the title he won by stopping Lazarte in a controversial bout in Argentina. The victory was completely legitimate though the scenes following the bout, a full blown riot, were highly condemned by the boxing world with Lazarte's fans trying to physically attack Casimero. For many fighters this would have been enough to retire them in fear, for Casimero however it seems to have helped spurred him on to keeping a hold of a title he almost lost his life for.
At his best Casimero is a genuine natural talent. He can box brilliantly, be can fight and whilst he's not the biggest puncher in the division he can certainly hurt people due to his work rate and speed. Unfortunately there seems to be something about him that the fans haven't warmed to, though he's a fighter who deserves to have fans and have people congratulating him on his successes against the odds.
Possibly the reason why few fans care too much about Casimero is his lack of world level punch. What he has, which has helped him at the top level, is stamina. His most notable stoppages have come in the second half of fights with Ardin Diale being stopped in round 8, Lazarte being stopped in round 10 and Canchila being stopped in round 11. Unfortunately he doesn't help himself with some dull performances as well.
In Salguero we have a genuine a really dangerous challenger. His record might look sketchy with 4 losses from 23 fights but 2 of those occurred in his first two professional contests way back in 2008. Since then however the Mexican has slowly proved himself with his most notable contest being a very close defeat to Casimero's compatriot Neites.
Oddly it was Salguero's bout against Nietes that put him on the proverbial map. It was the Mexican's first first world title bout, his first bout outside of Mexico and it was his first opportunity. Unfortunately after losing to Nietes he was stopped by Luis Alberto Rios in an IBF eliminator with Rios then getting a bout with Casimero which saw Casimero winning a less than memorable contest.
Against Nietes, Salguero proved to be an aggressive and hard working fighter. He didn't seem the most accurate or the most well conditioned but he brought a lot of pressure, was hard to force back and looked very heavy handed. His shorts may nave forced Nietes to the canvas but they all looked thudding upstairs and downstairs.
Casimero is tough. The only stoppage loss on his record came to the excellent Mthalane in South Africa at Flyweight a division bigger than what Casimero really should have been fighting at. With that in mind we don't think Salguero will hurt him enough to break him down. The Mexican will certainly try to turn it into a war but we think Casimero will just about manage to create the distance needed to box and move. In fact if Casimero's not too ring rusty there is every chance that he'll manage to make Salguero pay for his wild offense.
The Mexican, from interviews posted the past few weeks, does sound very confident, though he's again going to the lion's den and we imagine he'll again fall just short of claiming a world title. In a loss however we think Salguero will further enhance his own reputation and will likely prove himself to be a top contender, something that should help build Casimero's name as well as Salguero's.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.