Will Casimero sock it to Tete?
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - November 14, 2019 - 12:00am

Two-time world champion Johnriel Casimero takes on defending WBO bantamweight titlist Zolani Tete of South Africa at the 15,800-seat Arena Birmingham, UK, on Nov. 30 as the Ormoc slugger attempts to join super WBA welterweight king Sen. Manny Pacquiao, IBF superflyweight top dog Jerwin Ancajas and IBF minimumweight ruler Pedro Taduran as the country’s remaining beltholders after the recent losses of Vic Saludar and Nonito Donaire Jr.

Casimero, 29, is taking a big risk in battling Tete, 31, who’s won five fights in the UK, his second home. But fighting on the road is nothing new to the Filipino. He’s victimized opponents in Carson, Tijuana, London, Beijing, Nueva Leon, Panama, Mazatlan, Buenos Aires and Managua. Casimero couldn’t care less where he fights.

Tete is five inches taller and has an eight-inch reach advantage so Casimero must work under difficult physical circumstances to locate the long-limbed South African in the ring. Casimero is a patient workhorse and he’s content to break down his opponent bit by bit until it’s time for lights out. Some of Casimero’s toughest opponents were dispatched in late rounds like Ricardo Espinoza in the 12th, Cesar Ramirez in the 10th, Cesar Canchila in the 11th, Luis Lazarte in the 10th, Felipe Salguero in the 11th and Charlie Edwards in the 10th. Casimero rarely runs out of gas and always tries to keep something in reserve for the late going.

Casimero has a bone to pick against Tete. So it’s not just the WBO title he wants. Casimero is out for revenge. That’s because in 2011, he lost to South African Moruti Mthalane on a fifth round stoppage in Johannesburg. Casimero couldn’t adjust to South Africa’s high altitude and gasped for breath as the fight wore on, eventually surrendering to Mthalane. He’s never fought a South African again. Tete will be his first South African opponent since the Mthalane defeat and Casimero is determined to even the score.

Casimero has fought once in the UK, halting Edwards at the O2 Arena in 2016. The O2 Arena has a seating capacity of 20,000 and is the UK’s second largest indoor stadium behind the 21,000-seat Manchester Arena. The Birmingham facility ranks third but in 1991, it opened as the UK’s largest. The more hostile the crowd, the more driven Casimero is to knock out his opponent. In 2012, he halted Lazarte in Buenos Aires in front of the hometown hero’s trucking union teamsters who couldn’t take the loss and rioted. Casimero hid under the ring to avoid the mob attack and had to be escorted to the airport to fly out of the country by police the next day.

Casimero’s advantage is raw power. He packs dynamite in both fists and is fearless. Tete’s been stopped only once, coincidentally by Mthalane. His two other losses were to Mexico’s Juan Alberto Rosas by a majority decision and to Argentina’s Roberto Sosa by a split verdict. Tete’s durability will be severely tested in Birmingham. For the record, Tete has fought five Filipinos previously and beat them all, two (Rexon Flores and Eduard Panerio) by a first round KO. The three others lost on points – Richard Garcia, Jether Oliva and Arthur Villanueva. Tete’s record is 28-3, with 21 KOs while Casimero’s slate is 28-4, with 19 KOs.

Casimero left Manila to train in Las Vegas last Oct. 4. Conditioning expert Memo Heredia was recruited by MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons to get Casimero ready for Tete. Casimero leaves Las Vegas for Birmingham on Nov. 21. He’ll be joined by trainer Nonoy Neri and assistant coach Ting Ariosa. Gibbons will fly to Birmingham for the fight and may join the team in Casimero’s corner.

Gibbons said he has no doubt that Casimero will dethrone Tete. “Casimero’s an amazing fighter,” he said. “He has won in seven countries and two world titles plus the interim WBO bantamweight championship. He’s just a very focused fighter in the ring. He beats Tete by a late knockout or decision.”

JOHNRIEL CASIMERO
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