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By Rene Bonsubre, Jr.

Mon, 12 Sep 2016

John Riel Casimero recorded his seventh overseas conquest in London, England, with a tenth round TKO win over British challenger Charlie Edwards. This was the first defense of his IBF world flyweight title.

There is always a risk and the element of the unknown when a travels to fight in another country. Time zone difference, jet lag, food preference, altitude and weather changes can lead to a loss.

But punching power remains Casimero?s equalizer.

Edwards was mobile and tried to use his height and reach advantage. But Casimero and trainer Jun Agrabio already prepared for this. He was sparring with taller Filipino boxers, some who fought as super bantamweights. Agrabio told this writer when I visited their training camp two days before they left for England that Casimero was knocking down his super bantamweight sparmates.

Casimero is deceptive when it comes to his skills. His jab is not that sharp and he just paws it out as a range finder. But he is excellent in cutting off the ring.

In the 4th round, he hurt Edwards with punches to the body. In the 7th, the British challenger was reeling from the hard hooks he received and Casimero mocked him at the end of the round.

In the 10th, a left hook dropped Edwards on his back. Casimero smiled and raised his arms, knowing the title was still his. Edwards managed to get up but Referee Steve Gray correctly stopped it when Casimero advanced and Edwards was no longer able to hold him off.
Despite his accomplishments, Casimero lags behind in popularity compared to the other Filipino title-holders and contenders. Fighting abroad may be one of the main reasons for this.

Three years ago, when Casimero was still training at the Omega Gym in Cebu City, I remember seeing him outside the gym, talking to the security guard, in full view of everyone passing by on a busy sidewalk during rush hour. None of the pedestrians recognized him, and he was already the IBF world champ at light flyweight with a couple of defenses under his belt.

Casimero is more about substance than style. He did not make a name for himself because of publicists.

He earned his stripes the hard way by fighting in his opponents? turf either as champion or challenger.

He has also learned from his three career losses all of which happened on the road. Six years ago, in Mexico, he lost his WBO interim world light flyweight belt to Ramon Garcia Hirales by split decision. Considering the scores of 115-113 for all three judges, two going to the Mexican, Casimero knew that if he had been more active in the endgame, he could have kept his title.

He was ill-prepared and was not in condition for the altitude change in Johannesburg when he lost to South African Moruti Mthalane eight months later. This was the first time he moved up to 112 lbs. He dropped down again to 108lbs and won an IBF world title in the now infamous post-fight riot in Argentina against Luis Alberto Lazarte.

And who can forget the dirty foul-fest in Bangkok, Thailand when he challenged and lost to Amnat Ruenroeng last year.

But these experiences toughened Casimero. Under the tutelage of trainer Jun Agrabio, they have learned to prepare for everything. Revenge became his four months ago when Casimero knocked out the Thai in four rounds in their rematch in Beijing, China, winning the IBF flyweight crown.

For the record, the 26 year old Casimero has won in Nicaragua, Argentina, Mexico, Panama and China. The United Kingdom is now added to the list.

When you spend your career not being pampered, you learn to rise above adversity.

Agrabio is also known for guiding Marvin Sonsona to the WBO world super flyweight title in 2009. His partnership with Casimero seems like a good fit. The Filipino champ is now 23-3-0, 15KO?s. Edwards suffered his first loss in nine fights.


Atty. Danrex Tapdasan of the Philippines was one of the fight judges for Casimero vs Edwards together with Glen Hamada of the U.S and Michael Alexander of the U.K.

Atty. Tapdasan was also a judge on the IBF bantamweight title bout between British boxers Lee Haskins and Stuart Hall. Haskins retained his belt by unanimous decision. The scores ? Glen Hamada ? 117-111, Danrex Tapdasan ? 116-112 and Marcus McDonnell of the U.K.- 115-113.

These bouts were the main supporting matches for the blockbuster middleweight title fight at the O2 Arena between superstar Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan and Kell Brook of the U.K. Golovkin retained his IBF/IBO/WBC belts by fifth round TKO.


Kell Brook?s trainer Dominic Ingle was correct in throwing in the towel to prevent his boxer from further injury. A trainer knows his fighter best and he knows how much punishment his boxer is capable of taking because most of them have been together for years. And for a young boxer, there is always another fight and another payday on the horizon.

Same goes for British referee Steve Gray. His stoppage prevented Charlie Edwards from absorbing unnecessary punishment. Edwards was fighting a champion that was obviously more powerful and experienced. Edwards is only 23 years old and has a bright future ahead of him.

For the past couple of years, I had the privilege of working as a boxing physician for the Professional Boxing Commission (PBC), International. The organization started officiating big fights in Macao and the Chinese mainland and has since branched out to officiate fights in Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates. The role of cornermen are among the safety points that have been emphasized during our meeting with referees and trainers.

In the rules meetings that I have attended for WBO bouts, WBO VP for Asia-Pacific Leon Panoncillo always reminds the trainers that even if it is their job to push their boxer to win, at the end of the day, this is a sport, there are winners and losers, and the welfare of the boxer should be on the minds of the corner men.

We may never totally eliminate the possibility of a ring tragedy, but we can work together to minimize the risks.

Photo ? IBF world flyweight champion Johnriel Casimero and trainer Jun Agrabio (left) inside the gym of Victory Mall in Caloocan City, two days before they left for England for his title defense against Charlie Edwards

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