The UK might be one of the hotbeds for boxing right now but it's not often we'll see a Filipino take on a South African in the country. Today however we saw one such bout, as the WBO Bantamweight got a new champion!
The match up in question saw South African fighter Zolani Tete (28-4, 21) return to the ring after more than a year our to take on "interim" champion John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20) from the Philippines.
On paper this looked like a fantastic match up between two world class fighters. Two multi-weight world champions, in fact. It looked not only like it was going to be competitive, but also a very interesting clash of styles with Tete being a freakish physical specimen and Casimero being a wild, but heavy handed slugger.
Sadly the interest in the bout going in didn't deliver. The first 2 rounds saw almost nothing happen. The size difference and skills of both men saw almost nothing land, as both men showed a lot of respect to the other. The only meaningful thing that happened was a clash of heads in round 2. That was essentially the only meaningful connect either man made with the other in the first 6 minutes.
In round 3 things changed as Casimero seemingly grew in confidence and landed a brutal right hand up top on Tete. The shot was something else and not only did it drop Tete, but it left him scrambled. Tete beat the count but didn't look like he knew where he was. He looked like his legs were gone and his head was gone. Knowing it was his chance to strike Casimero kept up the intensity and essentially bundled the wobbly Tete down again. The South African's heart got him to his feet again, but a follow left the referee with no decision other than to stop the bout.
With Casimero celebrating another huge win on the road to become a 3 weight world champion attention turned to Tete who took quite a few minutes to recover, though thankfully did look fine in the end.
Following the win Casimero called for a fight with Naoya Inoue, in a bout that would unify the WBA, IBF and WBO titles, and it's clear that that is a bout that makes a lot of sense to see getting made in 2020.
The second major show today saw us turn our attention to the Philippines, where we got a really entertaining main event. The card's headline bout was for the WBO "interim" Bantamweight title, as John Riel Casimero (28-4, 19) and Mexican foe Cesar Ramirez (18-4, 11) traded blows in an action packed bout.
Casimero was the big favourite entering the bout. He was always expected to win, though he should a real hunger to win in style. He didn't just want the victory but wanted an eye catching win.
The fight started with a feeling out round but as early as round 3 Casimero was beginning to get significantly more aggressive. It was in round 3 the had scored his first knockdown, which really seemed more of a slip than a legitimate knockdown, and that he first showed that he wanted to take out Ramirez.
Ramirez bounced back excellently in the following round, as he upped his work rate, but had another 10-8 scored against him in round 5. This was another another case of a push being scored a knockdown, though it was clear that Ramirez was taking some punishment, despite giving all he had, and making it clear he wasn't going to just fold.
Ramirez's fire and desire showed again in round 6, as he forced a war and Casimero, for one of the few times, looked like he might be in some trouble. Whatever problems Casimero had were short lived however and he would score a very legitimate knockdown in round 7, nearly sending him out of the ring to secure a third 10-8 round. By now it was clear that Casimero was hunting a KO win, not just a win.
By now almost everything Casimero threw was a bomb, with either the left or right. It was a very energy sapping tactic for Casimero who appeared to get out worked in round 9 and even showed some signs of tiring. It was however a tactic Casimero felt comfortable with and was one he was trying to make a statement with. In round 10 that statement was made with a huge barrage from Casimero who hurt Ramirez with a body shot, the landed a right hand up top sending the Mexican to the canvas again. This time Ramirez was out, and the referee quickly waved off the action.
For Casimero this is his first defense of the WBO interim title, and should set up a shot with WBO regular champion Zolani Tete, in what should be an excellent match up. For Ramirez this was a painful loss. He gave everything and everything wasn't even close to enough, and it's really hard to see him competing at the fringes of world level any time soon. He's a gutsy and brave fighter, but technical limitations will always hold him back.
PBC is, at times, brilliant, with some great match making, competitive fights and big names facing off. Sometimes however the whole PBC series is a mess with mismatches, over-payment to certain fighters and other fights being included on shows due to favours, and not actually getting the TV exposure they deserve.
We saw a case of that last night when PBC failed to televise a thrilling, up and down war between John Riel Casimero (27-4, 18) and Ricardo Espinoza Franco (23-3, 20) for the WBO "interim" Bantamweight title.
The bout, which had only had it's title confirmed this past week by the WBO, looked like an amazing match up on paper. It had a talented Filipino looking to become a "3-weight champion" and a big punching Mexican, who was in great form. It had the ingredients to be one of the best bouts of the weekend and looked wonderfully competitive, unlike many of the bouts which did actually get television coverage.
Whilst we could sit and bemoan things that we didn't get, we would love to congratulate the fans who were able to catch the fight from the crowd, as they got a treat. A treat they had had to watch for, a treat that has been worth staying at the venue for.
The Mexican fighter started fast, taking the early rounds with his aggression, forcing Casimero to soak up the heat. The Filipino veteran, a true road warrior, showed his experience boxing on the back foot, holding when he needed to blunt the threat of Espinoza and countering well. As the Mexican's intensity fell it was going to give Casimero openings and that happened in rounds 5 and 6 as Casimero began to have more success. The power of Casimero, which has always been thudding to say the least, paid off in round 6 when he dropped the Mexican with a hard right hook towards the end of the bell.
Espinoza began to pick the pace back up after the knockdown, knowing he had to swing momentum back in his direction. That however came at a cost, and the Mexican was needing to work harder and harder to try and take Casimero down.
Heading into the final round it seemed like an ultra close one. There was seemingly little to pick between the men. Espinoza had been the aggressor, but the knockdown and smart counter boxing of Casimero had been winning him rounds. It seemed like both knew it was close, but a big combination early in the final round from Casimero took the judges out of the bout, dropping Espinoza for the second time. That, along, should have been enough, but Casimero didn't want to take any risks, and jumped on Espinoza after he beat the count, forcing the referee to stop the action.
The scores going into the final round, for those interested, were 105-103, 103-105 and 104-104, meaning it really was amazingly well balanced heading into the final 3 minutes.
With the win Casimero claims his third "world title", and sets himself up for the winner of the WBSS, meaning a potential clash with Zolani Tete, Nonito Donaire, Emmanuel Rodriguez or Naoya Inoue, though he is one of a growing queue to get a shot at the eventual tournament winner.
It seems that if we talk about top Filipino fighters one man is always forgotten. John Riel Casimero (19-2, 11), the current IBF Light Flyweight champion. So over looked is Casimero that many fans didn't even seem to realise he was in action this past weekend.
Sure Casimero will never be in the same bracket as superstars Nonito Donaire or Manny Pacquiao, but he doesn't even seem to be in consciousness of many fans.
Despite being the over-looked man of Filipino boxing Casimero showed what he was capable of as he defended his world title for the third time. Facing tough Mexican Felipe Salguero (18-5-1, 13) we expected Casimero to really pushed hard. Salguero did, after all, give Donnie Neites a very tough contest last time he fought a Filipino.
Amazingly, considering the fight Salguero gave Nietes, Casimero dominated his challenger and put on a performance that should remind Filipino fans just what a talent this youngster is.
Casimero started the fight by taking advantage of Salguero's stylistic issues. Salguero likes to set his feet and load up on shots and instead of standing in front of him Casimero used movement and accurate shots to disrupt the balance and timing of the Mexican. It wasn't exciting early on but it was cleaver with Casimero just managing to do enough to take the rounds.
The champion showed a different facet to his game in the middle rounds as he started to step up and fight Salguero in round 5. It was in this round that Casimero began to look like the champion hammering Salguero with several hard stinging shots from either hand. It appeared, several times, that Casimero had hurt the challenger though he couldn't, legally, put the challenger down.
In round 6 Casimero again had notable success cutting Salguero, who was still looking tough but was starting to eat punches. It seemed that if Casimero could find just one more gear he was going to be able to the Mexican out early.
Despite the successes in rounds 5 and 6 for the champion he was given a scare in the seventh as Salguero rocked him with a right hand, scoring his most notable moment of success. Unfortunately for Salguero that was about it for his success as Casimero rode out the storm and came back with a vengeance dropping the Mexican in the following round.
Although Salguero managed to pick himself off the canvas in round 8 it was obvious he was coming undone. He was still as game as they came but he was now feeling the effects of Casimero's uppercuts which again came in to play in round 9 as the challenger was dropped for the second time.
Despite the two knockdowns Salguero refused to give up and tried his best to fightback in round 10. Unfortunately for him the tenth was just a momentarily break in the beating he was beginning to suffer. Casimero turned the gas back on in round 11 sending Salguero down again with a combination. This time the referee had decided enough was enough and waved off the bout. It was almost certain that, given the chance, Salguero would have continued but though he would have taken a lot more punishment than he'd of given Casimero who looked sensational at times.
Although Casimero managed to make a statement defending his Light Flyweight title it appears that it could be his final bout at the weight. He hinted that making the 108lb limit was difficult and with that in mind a move to Flyweight would be likely.
Unfortunately the Flyweight division is one of the sports very best divisions and appears to only be getting tougher. Not only does it have world champions like Akira Yaegashi, Juan Francisco Estrada, Juan Carlos Reveco and Moruti Mthalane but also a host of excellent championship level fighters such as Edgar Sosa, Hernan Marquez, Brian Viloria, Milan Melindo, Rocky Fuentes, Koki Eto and Roman Gonzalez. If Casimero is forced up he will likely struggle to compete at the elite level, if he can stay at Light Flyweight however there are interesting bouts out there that he'd be favoured in.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.