Casimero, 30, decked Espinoza, 21, with an overhand right near the end of the sixth round for the first knockdown of the fight and appeared to be in control but a check on the tally sheets showed that he was behind in two of the three judges’ scorecards after 10 stanzas.
Johnriel Casimero wins by KO, bags WBO interim title
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - April 22, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Johnriel Casimero didn’t risk going the distance and avoided what could’ve been a highway robbery by stopping Mexico’s No. 1 contender Ricardo Espinoza at 0:44 of the 12th round to capture the interim WBO bantamweight crown at the Dignity Health Sports Park, formerly the StubHub Center, in Carson City, California, last Saturday night (yesterday afternoon, Manila time).

Casimero, 30, decked Espinoza, 21, with an overhand right near the end of the sixth round for the first knockdown of the fight and appeared to be in control but a check on the tally sheets showed that he was behind in two of the three judges’ scorecards after 10 stanzas. Entering the last round, judge Lou Moret saw it 105-103 for Casimero, judge Pat Russell 105-103 for Espinoza and judge Zachary Young 104-all.

Leaving nothing to chance, Casimero went for the kill to start the 12th. A left uppercut sent Espinoza down to the canvas but he beat referee Rudy Barragan’s count. Casimero didn’t let Espinoza off the hook and rained nine unanswered blows on the helpless Mexican until Barragan stepped in to halt the carnage.

It was a remarkable victory for Casimero who previously held the IBF lightflyweight and flyweight titles. Over a week ago, he arrived in Los Angeles about 12 pounds over the bantamweight limit and worked with former WBC lightflyweight champion Rodel Mayol at the Wild Card Gym to get ready for Espinoza. At the weigh-in last Friday, Casimero scaled 116 3/4 pounds but was visibly drained and declined media interviews. In contrast, Espinoza weighed in at 117 3/4. Mayol said he cut down the excess weight in only five days with proper nutrition.

Las Vegas international matchmaker Sean Gibbons, who arranged the fight, called Casimero “one of the nastiest punchers in the lower weights today.” Gibbons couldn’t be at ringside as he was in Tokyo with WBA welterweight champion Sen. Manny Pacquiao for an engagement but designated his son Brendan to take care of Casimero. “The guy’s incredible,” said Gibbons. “You don’t find too many Filipinos winning fights in Panama, Nicaragua, Argentina, Mexico thrice, London and Beijing. He’s a road warrior. Espinoza was ranked No. 1 and due for a mandatory title shot with 20 KOs in 23 wins. But Casimero took care of business.”

Mayol, who’s gaining a solid reputation as a world-class trainer, said he was worried about the fight lasting the full route. “Buti na lang na knock out si Espinoza,” he said. Judge Russell gave seven of the nine rounds before the 12th to Espinoza, including the ninth and 11th which the two other judges scored for Casimero. If Espinoza took the last round, he would’ve won by a split decision.

After the fight, Casimero said he would straighten out his life and get serious about his boxing career. Since turning pro in 2007, the Ormoc City slugger has struggled with weight, attitude and managerial problems.

BOXING JOHNRIEL CASIMERO RICARDO ESPINOZA
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