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Casimero defends title far from home

John Riel Casimero

MANILA, Philippines - John Riel Casimero continued with his worldwide campaign yesterday and successfully defended his IBF light-flyweight crown with a unanimous decision against Panamanian Luis Alberto Rios.

The 23-year-old Casimero, born in Ormoc City but now a resident of Cebu, just did what was needed for him to win the fight at the Megapolis Convention Center in Panama City.

All three judges went for Casimero, 119-109, 119-109 and 118-110.

It was Casimero’s second defense of the title since it was awarded to the Filipino following a tumultuous knockout win over Luis Alberto Lazarte in Buenos Aires in February last year.

Casimero fought his first 13 fights on local soil before sailing overseas in 2009 to score victories in Nicaragua, Mexico, Argentina and this time in the heart of Panama.

He also fought in Johannesburg, South Africa in March last year but was knocked out in the fifth round by Moruti Mthalane for the IBF’s 108 lb crown.

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But Casimero, who loves to dye his hair and wears colorful tattooes, hasn’t lost a fight since. He has won four in a row for a record of 18-2 with 10 knockouts.

After knocking out Roemart Sentillas in the first round at the Hoops Dome in Cebu in February 2011, Casimero entered the lion’s den to face Lazarte in Argentina.

It almost cost him his life because after he knocked out his opponent in the 10th round, a riot took place inside the Mar del Plata venue.

Lazarte loyalists peppered the ring with all types of debris and close to dozen plastic chairs were thrown into the ring. It was an ugly scene.

A couple of Argentine fans found their way on top of the ring and started to attack Casimero and his team, including his soft-spoken manager, Sammy Gello-ani.

The police herded Casimero and his companions to safety.

That was for the interim IBF light-flyweight crown. But weeks after, the world title was eventually awarded to Casimero after Mexican Ulises Solis was stripped of the title for failure to defend it due to injury.

In August last year, the fearless Filipino fighter went to Sinaloa, Mexico to face Pedro Guevarra and the Mexican crowd. He won by split decision.

Casimero said he’s not afraid of anyone and would fight anywhere just to defend the title. Yesterday he was back doing what he does best – fighting overseas.

“I’d go back to Argentina to fight if needed,” he once said.


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