MISSION POSSIBLE: Conquering Zolani Tete
By Homer D. Sayson
Fri, 29 Nov 2019
CHICAGO -- When he was only 12 years young, John Riel Casimero used to fight on the mean streets of Ormoc City, his hometown in the province of Leyte, Philippines.
On a bad day, he'd beat the snout out of one unlucky combatant. On some good days, he'll lay the hurt, three suckers at a time.
But as reported by Rene Bonsubre Jr in a PhilBoxing feature piece last December 2009, boxing wasn't first on the then young man's wish list. Johnriel had dreamed of doing something else in life.
He wanted to be a policeman.
Guns and badges. Bullets and bad guys. Girls on the side.
But hurting people for money sounds sexy, too. Especially if you have hands that are heavy as a Sunday morning hangover. So instead of going to the police academy, Johnriel walked inside a gym.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
John Riel Casimero with MP Promotions' Sean Gibbons.
Twelve years after turning pro, this time hardened by 216 rounds of ring experience, Casimero (28-4, 19 KOS) is in for the biggest fight of his life when he climbs the Arena Birmingham ring in England and attempts to extract the WBO bantamweight title from the firm grip of Zolani Tete.
The big rumble is penciled for Saturday night (Sunday morning RP time).
Johnriel had plowed through his last two opponents, scoring easy knockouts. But the four-time defending champion from South Africa will not be easy by any stretch of the imagination.
Zolani Tete will not just surrender like France. He will resist like Iwo Jima.
Casimero (R) and Tete during Wednesday's press conference.
At 5-foot-9 inches tall with a 72-inch reach, the 31-year old Tete (28-3, 21 KOs) is as long as an afternoon nap. Shortening that distance will be a challenge for the 5-foot-4 Casimero and his 64-inch reach.
But the plucky Filipino, a resilient road warrior, has the tools to overcome Zolani's physical advantages.
Johnriel has the speed that would allow him to enter the danger zone with only limited exposure. He also has the iron chin necessary to take his share of lumps in order to come close and engage a crafty foe who will aggressively use a blinding jab to repel any advance.
"Turn it into a street fight," suggested Bonsubre, a ring physician who also writes for asianboxing.info and topclassboxing.co.uk.
"Go heavy with the body shots," said Edito "Ala" Villamor, a decorated former champion who is currently the coach and trainer of the prestigious ALA Boxing stable in Cebu City.
NEW PRESIDENT. NEW CULTURE. HAPPY LIFE Chasing an unwilling brawler all over the ring requires stamina and endurance. Johnriel got those weapons, too. Thanks to Angel "Memo" Heredia, the highly-regarded strength and conditioning coach, Casimero is now sculpted like a Greek god.
Sean Gibbons brought Heredia on board and he flew Casimero to England via first class accommodation. Team Casimero is staying at the luxurious Jury's Inn, which sits close to The Gym on Broad street where Jonriel is fine-tuning his preparations .
Johnriel's happy vibe and the culture of professionalism permeating within Team Casimero is a tribute to Manny Pacquiao Promotions president Sean Gibbons.
Since taking over the helm at MPP, fighters under the Pacquiao umbrella have been showered with tender loving care in a way that will motivate them even more to succeed.
"Priority No.1," Gibbons, a former light heavyweight fighter, says.
Besides running the daily affairs at MPP, Gibbons is also an enthusiastic cheerleader, motivator-in-chief. and a tireless advocate for his fighters.
In return, MPP boxers love and adore Sean. They'll leap out of a building for him, take a bullet for him.
I don't know how much salary Sean makes for everything he does, but my guess is that it's not enough. As an old Chinese proverb once said, "How can a blade of grass thank the sun?"
Although John Riel Casimero is not a policeman, Gibbons has given him the authority to arrest Zolani Tete and confiscate the WBO bantamweight belt.
May that mission be accomplished.
Editor's Note. The Chicago-based author is a regular columnist at SPIN.ph. He began his career in 1993 as an Asst. Sports Editor of a Cebu City newspaper. Sayson was the former U.S. editor of NBA.com Philippines and is currently the U.S. editor of Sports on Air.
Click here to view a list of other articles written by Homer D. Sayson.
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