Heredia on Casimero’s side
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 17, 2019 - 12:00am

The Mexican strength and conditioning coach who bulked up Juan Manuel Marquez to knock out Manny Pacquiao in 2012 is now helping out interim WBO bantamweight champion Johnriel Casimero. Angel (Memo) Heredia, a kinesiology graduate whose father was a chemical engineer, is known in boxing circles as the miracle worker. He knows all about performance-enhancing-drugs, especially the designer kind that avoids detection, and is the highest-profile federal witness in doping history.

Heredia has been accused of doping athletes. Marquez, for instance, had never floored Pacquiao in three previous meetings until Heredia took over his training program and turned him into a war machine. Ringsiders noticed acne on Marquez’ back when he battled Pacquiao in their fourth meeting and the suspicion was steroids fueled his body. “I’ve been in boxing for eight years and none of my boxers has ever tested positive,” said Heredia, quoted by Tom Kershaw in The Independent. “We’ve always been clean. I have my family and my son. This is what I make for a living and I don’t want to taint it.”

Guilty or not, Heredia has become a much-sought-after strength and conditioning coach in boxing. MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons is among his believers and booked him to work with Casimero, now training in Las Vegas for a Nov. 23 bout against regular WBO titlist Zolani Tete of South Africa.

Casimero, 29, won the interim title via a 12th round stoppage of Ricardo Espinoza in Carson City, California, last April. Tete was supposed to stake his crown against super WBA beltholder Nonito Donaire Jr. in a World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) semifinal and unification match that month but backed out with an injury. The word was Tete chickened out when he saw Donaire in a public workout a week before the fight.

Now, Tete has no choice but to face Casimero in a mandatory defense or else he’ll be stripped of the crown. English promoter Frank Warren has set the date for Nov. 23 but isn’t committing on a venue. Gibbons said it will be in either London or Birmingham. Casimero couldn’t care less where he fights Tete. In 2016, Casimero halted Charlie Edwards at the O2 Arena in London. Aside from the Philippines, Casimero has won in seven other countries – Nicaragua, Argentina, Mexico, Panama, China, England and the US. Fight fans call him the “road warrior.”

Gibbons’ involvement in Casimero’s affairs has straightened out his career. In the past, Casimero didn’t seem to understand the impropriety of signing concurrent contracts with several managers. He had deals with international promoter Sampson Lewkowicz of Uruguay, Sammy Gello-ani, Omega Gym of Cebu and even former WBA superlightweight champion Morris East. Gibbons sorted out the obligations and trainer Nonoy Neri took over from Jun Agrabio. Of course, Agrabio is crying foul because he went through hard times with Casimero during his early years. But Gibbons said Neri was Casimero’s choice and if Agrabio has a grievance, he should take it up with the fighter himself.

Gibbons arranged for Casimero to train in Las Vegas with Neri and hired Heredia to make sure his weight would be in order. From Las Vegas, Casimero will fly straight to the UK. Gibbons said he’s confident Casimero will get the job done, either by a late knockout or a decision.

“It won’t be an easy fight,” said Gibbons. “Tete has a style that might make things a little difficult for Casimero but he’ll sort that out. Casimero is a very smart fighter. Remember, he has won in over seven countries and took world titles in three divisions. He’s just a very focused fighter in the ring. He’s doing amazing, living and training in Las Vegas. He will be the full WBO champion then he wants to fight the winner of the Naoya Inoue-Nonito Donaire bout in Japan on Nov. 7.”

Gibbons said what’s even more impressive about Casimero is his ability to sustain his energy for late knockouts. “I was in Japan when Casimero fought Espinoza and watched on livestream,” said Gibbons. “The fight was dead even in the 10th round then the connection was interrupted. When the connection came back on, it was announced that Casimero had won by a 12th round knockout.” Casimero is a kind of fighter who doesn’t run out of gas. He stopped Edwards in the 10th, Luis Lazarte in Buenos Aires in the 10th, Cesar Canchila in Managua in the 11th, Felipe Salguero in Makati in the 11th and Cesar Ramirez in San Andres, Manila in the 10th. His staying power is incredible.

The winner of the Inoue-Donaire fight will become the WBSS champion and the unified WBA bantamweight king. If and when Casimero defeats Tete to capture the WBO crown, he’ll immediately call out the survivor. The “road warrior” is determined to become the undisputed, unified and exclusive tenant of the world bantamweight throne.

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