By Daniel Sharman (email@example.com)
In November 2019, a most remarkable event occurred, one which went almost unnoticed amongst boxing fans: every single major champion within the bantamweight division faced off against another consensus top 10 fighter within the division. Indeed, if Rodriguez-Nery hadn't been scuppered at the last minute, eight top 10 bantamweights would have faced off against one another within just a single calendar month. This is a truly astonishing occurrence, and one seldom witnessed in modern day boxing, wherein top fighters are routinely inactive and often reluctant to fight one another.
In the wake of this eventful month, which has seen a number of other interesting developments within the division, four fighters have emerged thick amongst the clouds: Naoya Inoue, Nonito Donaire, Nordine Oubaali, and John Riel Casimero. In this new series, I will look at each of these four boxers in turn, considering matchups and mandatories, all with a view to plotting the course of a possible route to a new undisputed, and new lineal, bantamweight champion. In this, the prelude to the series, we recap the major events leading up to the current moment, and prepare the way for an examination of the four boxers who have emerged in the current bid for bantamweight supremacy. Whilst it may not yet be clear who will ultimately come out victorious, whoever it is will have achieved true supremacy, and will have left their name boldly etched in the annals of history.
A timeline of recent events:
24/04/2019, South Africa: WBO bantamweight titlist Zolani Tete is forced to withdraw from the WBSS quarterfinal, a unification bout with WBA 'super' champion Nonito Donaire, due to injury.
18/05/2019, Glasgow: Naoya Inoue starches undefeated IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez in two rounds in the WBSS quarterfinal.
07/11/2019, 9:00pm, Saitama: Nordine Oubaali and Takuma Inoue fight to unify the full and interim WBC bantamweight titles. Oubaali outpoints a determined and skilful Inoue over 12 rounds to retain his full version of the WBC crown.
07/11/2019, 9:30pm, Saitama: Donaire and Inoue meet in a scintillating WBSS final. The fight, which goes the distance, proves to be a fight of the year frontrunner with veteran Donaire acquitting himself brilliantly.
Inoue survives a severe orbital fracture to emerge as a newly unified champion whilst cementing his spot at the top of the P4P lists. He also announces his new co-promotional deal with Top Rank, with his next fight planned to be held in Vegas in April.
Meanwhile, Oubaali immediately expresses his desire to unify with Inoue, who reciprocates likewise, stating his desire to gain revenge for his brother.
20/11/2019: Bob Arum, Inoue's new co-promoter, informs reporters that Inoue's camp has told him that Inoue's eye injury is not too severe, and so the unified bantamweight world champion should be ready to return in March or April.
22/11/2019, Las Vegas: WBC mandatory challenger Luis Nery weighs in a pound over the bantamweight limit before his final eliminator bout with former IBF champion Rodriguez. This marks at least the fourth time Nery has missed the bantam limit in his professional career.
23/11/2019: Donaire indicates he has no plans to retire, and expresses an interest in rematching Inoue or facing Oubaali for his WBC crown.
28/11/2019, Mexico City: Marking the end of a long period of continued leniency, the WBC officially withdraws Nery's mandatory status. WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman advises Nery to move up one or even two weight divisions.
30/11/2019, Birmingham, UK: WBO interim titlist John Riel Casimero scores a big upset win, icing the returning WBO champion Tete within three rounds. With this, Casimero officially becomes a three weight world champion.
In his post-fight interview, Casimero immediately calls out Inoue for a unification matchup. Inoue immediately responds via Twitter to affirm his desire for such a fight to take place.
04/12/2019, Tokyo: At their 32nd annual convention, the WBO affirm their intention to work towards making a unification bout between Inoue and their own champ Casimero.
09/12/2019, Mexico City: In light of Nery's removal from the mandatory position, the WBC board vote to instate their #4 contender Donaire as Oubaali's new mandatory challenger. Purse bids scheduled for January 3rd. Donaire shares this news positively on his social media.
09/12/2019, New Jersey: the IBF order Inoue to defend against mandatory challenger Michael Dasmarinas. Purse bids scheduled for January 2nd.
Coming up in the series...
Issue 1: Donaire, the Veteran
Issue 2: Casimero, the Wildcard
Issue 3: Oubaali, the Dark Horse
Issue 4: Inoue, the Heir Apparent
*Note: For the purposes of the current series, I have opted to ignore Luis Nery. This is due to Nery's missing weight in his latest contest, and the WBC's subsequent removal of him from their rankings. If Nery can still make bantamweight, it seems that the best he can hope for currently is a shot at the winner of the WBA 'regular' title fight between Rigondeaux and Solis. This rather lacklustre prospect fails to warrant him a spot in the bid to become 'the man' of the bantamweight division.
By Rene Bonsubre,jr
It was weekend like no other in the Philippines. Back to back title fights in different locations in Metro Manila and a champion defending his title overseas. When the dust settled, it was only John Riel Casimero who still had a world title belt around his waist.
Casimero faced Mexican visitor Cesar Ramirez at the San Andres Sports Center in Malate,Manila. Both boxers were hesitant to trade bombs at the start. Casimero’s left scored a flash knockdown in the third and there was a questionable knockdown in the fifth also against Ramirez. In between, Ramirez had his best moments on the outside, using his jab and landing quick one-two combos.
But Casimero was successful in turning it into a street fight. They took turns staggering each other but this type of battle was Casimero’s world. It brought back memories of Casimero’s nasty brawl and TKO win against Luis Alberto Lazarte in Argentina seven years ago.
In the seventh, Casimero blasted Ramirez through the ropes. A KO ending was looming. In the 10th a faded Ramirez succumbed and fell flat after being hit by a clean right to the jaw. Referee Ramon Peña correctly signaled the end as Ramirez (18-4,11KO’s) spent a few minutes lying on the canvas.
Aside from retaining the interim WBO title, Casimero (28-W-4L,19KO’s) earned the right to fight WBO bantamweight champion Zolani Tete of South Africa within ninety days.
Carlo Caesar Peñalosa could not capitalize his homecourt advantage and succumbed to the pressure fighting Mexican Maximino Flores. Peñalosa was on the back foot for most of the fight, seeking refuge on the ropes and preferring to counter. Flores continued to swing for the body, not thinking whether his punches were blocked or not, as long as he kept going forward.
An accidental clash of heads lead to a cut on Peñalosa’s left eye. The ring doctor allowed the fight to continue and Flores continued to control the action. Peñalosa landed clean shots but Flores just walked through them.
There was a weird moment after the sixth round when the Aussie referee Garry Dean announced the fight was stopped and was going to the scorecards. There was a miscommunication with the ring doctor who said he did not recommend the stoppage just yet.
The fight continued in the seventh after a brief protest by the Mexican camp. Peñalosa couldn’t do anything to change the complexion of the fight and it was stopped at the end of the round. The scores – Judges Jerrold Tomeldan (Philippines) and Adam Height (Australia) had it for Flores 68-65 and 67-66 respectively and Kevin Pyne (New Zealand) had it 67-66 for Peñalosa.
The fight for the vacant IBO world flyweight title was promoted by Carlo’s uncle, former two-division world champion Gerry Peñalosa and held at the TV5 Studio in Quezon City.
It seemed this was a case of Flores (25-4-1,17KO’s) simply having experienced better competition, previously losing to Andrew Selby of the U.K.and Filipino Milan Melindo. It will be back to the drawing boards for the 26 year old Peñalosa (14-2,7KO’s) who suffers his second pro loss.
Vic Saludar’s career seemed to be headed for greater heights after winning twice in Japan. But mandatory challenger Puerto Rican Wilfredo Mendez had other plans. Saludar defended the WBO minimumweight crown on Mendez’s home turf in San Juan,Puerto Rico and left an ex-champion.
Mendez (14-1,5KO’s) danced and jabbed his way to victory. Saludar’s left knocked him down in the fifth but this was near the end of the round and there was no time to follow it up. The trend continued wherein the southpaw Mendez circled effectively away from Saludar’s power right. He clinched when Saludar (19-4,10KO’s) got too close for comfort.
Mendez’s strategy was reminiscent of another Puerto Rican miniflyweight, Ivan Calderon. The scores at the end - 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112.
Saludar’s trainer Jojo Palacios could not make the trip to Puerto Rico because of visa issues. Filipino-Hawaiian Bobby Villaver, an experienced cornerman who made a name in Thailand, was Palacios’ replacement.
ULTIMATE BOXING SERIES
The undercard of the Penalosa-Flores fight saw the finals of the Ultimate Boxing Series tournament. The audience was treated to two close fiercely fought eight rounders.
April Jay Abne won the flyweight category with a majority decision win over Ronel Sumalpong while Lienard Sarcon was on the top of the bantamweights after beating Aljum Pelesio also by majority verdict.
PHOTO – Left to right – John Riel Casimero, Vic Saludar and Carlo Peñalosa
By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
John Riel Casimero (27-W-4L,18KO’s) will be making the first defense of his WBO interim world bantamweight title this August 24 on home soil. His opponent, Cesar Ramirez (18-3,11KO’s) will be fighting out of Mexico for only the second time in his career.
Casimero spent time in Manny Pacquiao’s training camp in Los Angeles when the Filipino senator was preparing for his fight against Keith Thurman. He was one of the many fighters and trainers joining Pacquiao in his now legendary roadwork and training regimen. There is a videos on youtube where Casimero and other Filipino boxers are seen doing plyometrics with Pacquiao.
Casimero is back in the Philippines and a couple of days ago, he posted on social media that he was travelling to Davao.
“I am now in Davao training with Nonoy Neri,” Casimero told this writer. Neri is known for being the assistant trainer for Pacquiao. He also did work a few years ago with Jerwin Ancajas, who is now the IBF world junior bantamweight champion.
“Coach Neri has many boxers that I can spar with,” Casimero added. One of his social media posts shows Casimero sparring with Vincent Astrolabio, the WBO Oriental bantamweight titleholder.
In Ramirez’s last fight, he beat Eddy Valencia by unanimous verdict for the vacant WBC FECOMBOX superbantamweight title. The 31 year old Ramirez’s third career loss happened in the U.K. in 2016 against Ryan Burnett, who is now a former WBA world bantamweight champ. They fought for the WBC International belt with Burnett prevailing by unanimous decision. His other losses were to Mexican prospects Alejandro Gonzalez,Jr and Aaron Alameda.
Casimero vs Ramirez will be in Metro Manila co-promoted by Pacquiao's MP Promotioms. WBO Asia Pacific Vice President Leon Panoncillo will be supervising the contest. This fight is one of the rare times Casimero gets to have a title bout in the Philippines.
The 30 year old Casimero, from Ormoc, Leyte, is a noted road warrior, having previously seen action in eight different countries. He is also known for surviving an infamous ring riot in Argentina in 2012 where he won the IBF light flyweight title against Luis Alberto Lazarte. He captured the IBF world flyweight title in China against Thai Amnat Ruenroeng. Casimero also previously held a WBO interim world title in the light flyweight division which he won in Nicaragua in 2009 against Colombian Cesar Canchila and lost it in Mexico seven months later to Ramon Garcia Hirales.
Casimero only had a title bout twice at home. In 2013 he beat Mexico’s Felipe Salguero by 10th round TKO to retain his IBF light flyweight belt in Makati City. Then in 2014, he lost his IBF belt on the scales when he checked in overweight against Colombian Mauricio Fuentes in Cebu City. Casimero however, stopped Fuentes in round one.
As of this writing, there has been no word as to where exactly will they will hold the title bout in Metro Manila.
Casimero won the WBO interim belt last April in Carson, California by a dramatic 12th and final round stoppage of Mexican Ricardo Espinoza Franco. The regular WBO title is held by South African Zolani Tete(28-3,21KO’s), who has not defended since October 2018.
Tete suffered a right shoulder injury which forced him to pull out of the WBSS bantamweight tournament semis against Nonito ‘The Filipino Flash’ Donaire. The winner of the Casimero-Ramirez fight will face Tete with ninety days.
File photo – Johnriel Casimero training in Manila in 2016.
By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
Filipino boxers Joe Noynay and John Riel Casimero delivered big victories in overseas fights last weekend. Noynay garnered another regional title when he stopped Japanese Kosuke Saka in two rounds for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific junior lightweight title at the Edion Arena in Osaka, Japan.
“I wasn’t expecting the fight to end early. But I caught him early, knocked him down twice in the first, the referee stopped it in the second.” Noynay told this writer.
Noynay may be elated with his win but he isn’t thinking about a world title shot just yet. “That really depends…I will just continue to train hard.”
Noynay is now 17W-2L-1D,6KO’s while Saka drops to 18W-5L,15KO’s.
The current WBO world champion in the 130lb division is a Japanese, Masayuki Ito. Prior to this win, the WBO had Noynay at number ten in their latest rankings. Noynay also exorcised the ghost of his loss in Japan when he lost a unanimous decision to Reiya Abe at the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo.
The 23 year old southpaw from Bogo,Cebu, previously held the Youth version of the WBO Asia Pacific title. Two years ago, Noynay was an underdog in Zhongshan,China when he took the Youth regional belt from previously unbeaten Chinese Pan Jinxiang by eighth round technical decision.
Last year, he returned to his hometown of Bogo and defended his WBO regional belt against Mexican Hector Garcia and prevailed by majority decision.
On the same date in a different time zone, former two-division IBF world champion John Riel Casimero rose to the occasion in his U.S. debut and beat erstwhile WBO number one contender Ricardo Espinoza Franco by TKO in the twelfth and final round for the vacant WBO interim world bantamweight title.
Casimero was ranked number six going into this bout that was initially reported to be for the WBO International belt.
But it was reported four days before the contest that it will be for the interim world title. The current WBO champion, South African Zolani Tete, is currently tied up with the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament.
Casimero had to leave without trainer Jhun Agrabio, who had visa issues. Former WBO light flyweight champ, Rodel Mayol stepped up to work in his corner. Casimero left the Philippines ten pounds over the limit but Mayol told this writer that three days before the weigh-in that Casimero would make weight. And he did, at 116.8lbs while the much taller Ricardo Espinoza weighed 117.8lbs.
Agrabio told this writer after the fight that Casimero stuck to their game plan. But, before the fight was stopped the scores after eleven rounds were 105 - 103 Casimero, 105 - 103 Espinoza and 104 – 104. This underscores the heart of toughness of Casimero.
Casimero is now 27-4,18KO’s. Espinoza is 23-3,20KO’s.
What made this win more amazing was that it was only two months ago that he confidently stated that he would be targeting another belt at 118 lbs.
“It was Casimero being a veteran that made the difference in this bout.” Mayol stated.
The 30 year old Casimero, from Ormoc, Leyte, previously held a WBO interim world title in the junior flyweight division.
He captured IBF world titles at junior flyweight and flyweight. He is a noted road warrior, having previously seen action in eight different countries. He is also known for surviving an infamous ring riot in Argentina in 2012.
We will wait and see what happens next and how he will fit in after the WBSS tournament is over.
Photo – Joe Noynay (left) and Johnriel Casimero
By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
Former IBF junior flyweight and flyweight world champion John Riel Casimero of the Philippines made it known a couple of months ago that he would be seeking a third world title belt as a bantamweight. He is penned to fight for the WBO International title in the 118lb division this April 20 and a win will move him one step closer towards his dream.
The 30 year old Casimero (26-4,17KO’s) will face Ricardo Espinoza Franco (23-2,20KO’s), a young 21 year old Mexican, in Carson,California. This will be the first U.S. appearance for Casimero, who has seen action in eight different countries.
After a brief rest following his impressive sixth round TKO win against Japanese Kenya Yamashita at the Skydome in Quezon City, Casimero continued his training in the Philippines under Jhun Agrabio. Casimero has left the Philippines for the U.S. but Agrabio had to stay behind waiting for his visa.
“Casimero is still ten pounds over the limit but I am confident he can lose it before the official weigh-in,” Agrabio told this writer, “I already saw a video of his opponent and we trained so he can knock the guy out.”
Weight issues are nothing new to Casimero. In fact, when he faced Amnat Ruenroeng in their rematch in Beijing in 2016, both reached a point where they were too weak to stand in their effort to make weight. Casimero took Ruenroeng’s IBF flyweight title by fourth round TKO. Casimero also lost his IBF junior flyweight title at the scales in 2014. In between the weight problems, Casimero has given fans memorable action packed bouts. He is currently ranked number six by the WBO.
Two years ago, his plans to win a third world title got derailed when he lost to countryman Jonas Sultan by unanimous decision in an IBF junior bantamweight title eliminator held in Cebu City.
Casimero spent time in the United States last year, where he trained with Morris East, a Filipino former WBA world junior welterweight champ. He had one fight in Tijuana, Mexico, an easy second round TKO win over Jose Pech.
Franco will not be a pushover. He has a high KO percentage and holds the WBO Latino bantamweight title. He has seen action in the U.S. multiple times and he has never been stopped. His last bout was a tenth round knockout win over Panamanian Ricardo Nuñez.
The World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament is still ongoing and it would be interesting to see where Casimero will fit in all of this if he gets past Franco.
Photo- John Riel Casimero after winning his fight against Kenya Yamashita
By Rene Bonsubre,jr
It was a night filled with brutal knockouts but John Riel Casimero’s beatdown of Japanese Kenya Yamashita had the more veteran observers buzzing. Boxing writers who attended the official weigh-in wondered if he could carry his punching power a couple of divisions higher. One of the reasons for this uncertainty was his lethargic showing against Jonas Sultan in an IBF junior bantamweight eliminator a couple of years ago.
Yamashita did manage to take Casimero’s punches early in the fight. But Casimero added body shots to his offense as the rounds progressed and Yamashita was bruised, bloodied and dazed at the end of the fifth. There was concern already about Yamashita’s well-being with the ring doctor checking in on him before the start of the sixth.
The fight was allowed to continue and a sharp right uppercut sent Yamashita crashing into his corner. Medical personnel attended to him before he was able to leave the ring on his own two legs.
That win last Saturday was Casimero’s warning shot to the bantamweight division. He told this writer during the weigh that he intended to win another world title as a bantamweight. The fight against Yamashita dismissed any doubts as to whether he was still a viable force.
“I heard Jerwin Ancajas is planning a move to 118,” Casimero told this writer, “Well, I am going to beat him to it. I will be going for the big fights before he does.”
There is still an ongoing World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament but Casimero did mention recently crowned WBC champ Nordine Oubaali of France as one of those that he would like to fight.
Casimero’s upset loss to Sultan prevented him from being part of the first all-Filipino world title fight in almost a hundred years. Ancajas outclassed Sultan and successfully defended his IBF junior bantamweight title by unanimous verdict.
The chatter after the Yamashita fight was how did an accomplished two-division champion like Casimero lose to an upstart like Sultan. Casimero won IBF world titles at 108 and 112 lbs. He has been a pro for a dozen years now and beat the likes of Luis Alberto Lazarte, Pedro Guevara, Amnat Ruenroeng and Charlie Edwards. Casimero is also a noted road warrior, having fought in eight different countries. He is also known for surviving an infamous ring riot in Argentina after he beat Lazarte. Boxing insiders who gathered at ringside talked about his inconsistencies in training. He does have a history of gaining a lot of weight in between fights. In fact, he lost his IBF junior flyweight title at the scales in 2014.
The 30 year old Casimero is now 26-4, 17KO’s. The veteran boxing writers who followed his career all agree that with dedication and discipline, he can be a world champion again. In his fight against Yamashita, he was reunited with cornerman Jhun Agrabio, who guided him in his revenge fourth round TKO win against the Thai Ruenroeng in Beijing, China in 2016.
Last year, Casimero trained with Morris East, a Filipino former WBA world junior welterweight champ, in Las Vegas. Casimero had one fight in Tijuana, Mexico,an easy second round TKO win over Jose Pech.
These articles are submitted by guest writers and sites. They aren't submitted by the usual folk behind Asian Boxing and don't fall in line with our editorial stance, giving a fresh view on various boxing issues from the Asian boxing scene.