Johnriel wants to be nonpareil

Ed C. Tolentino

Ed C. Tolentino

Coming off an impressive ten-round demolition of British challenger Charlie Edwards, International Boxing Federation (IBF) flyweight (112 lbs.) champion Johnriel “Quadro Alas” Casimero has issued a direct challenge to World Boxing Council (WBC) counterpart Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez, who just happens to be recognized as the best pound-for-pound champion in boxing today.

Casimero’s confidence is clearly at an all-time high after he demolished Edwards for his initial defense of the IBF flyweight diadem. Edwards tried to take a page of Amnat Ruenroeng’s (the last fighter to beat Casimero) book by moving and running, but Casimero apparently read only the Jungle Book and he hunted down the Brit like a wolf in 10 rounds. Casimero’s timing was a bit off with his right hand, but he wisely invested on some pretty mean body punches in the early rounds.

In the fourth stanza, Casimero rocked Edwards with a huge right uppercut and from then on the challenger stuck to his jab-and-move maneuver. Casimero again hurt Edwards in the seventh stanza with a furious body assault capped by a right uppercut. In the ninth round, Casimero varied his offense and introduced the left hook. In the tenth round, a vicious exchange saw Casimero land a powerful left hook that deposited Edwards to the canvas. Edwards got up, but the referee subsequently waived the fight off after it became clear that the challenger was no longer fit to resume combat.

Casimero improved his record to 23-3 with 15 knockouts with the rousing victory. He has won 9 of his last 10 fights, the lone setback coming in the hands of Thai speedster Ruenroeng in June 2015. In a rematch last May, Casimero battered and knocked out Ruenroeng in four rounds to win the IBF flyweight crown, his second division crown after he initially reigned as light flyweight (108 lbs.) king.

Casimero, 26, yearns for a unification showdown with Gonzalez, but it remains to be seen if the Nicaraguan superstar will return to the 112-pound class. Last June 10, Gonzalez moved up in weight and outpointed Mexican Carlos Cuadras for the WBC super flyweight (115 lbs.) diadem. Gonzalez, 46-0 with 38 knockouts, struggled against a game Cuadras, triggering observations that he might return to the flyweight ranks where big fights against the likes of Donnie Nietes and Casimero loom. As of this writing, Gonzalez still has the option to decide which belt (flyweight or super flyweight) to keep.

For all the improvement in his fistic stock, Casimero will be the heavy underdog if he lures Gonzalez in the ring. It is worth noting that Edwards only had 8 fights going into his fight against Casimero and clearly lacked experience. Gonzalez parades two-fisted power and a proven track record, having reigned as champion in four weight classifications. Then again, not a few have noticed that the 29-year-old Gonzalez is no longer the dominating fighter he used to be. As he moved up in weight, Gonzalez started to struggle against the likes of Juan Francisco Estrada and Cuadras.

Gonzalez’s face was cut and visibly marked against Cuadras and not a few thought he lost the fight. Casimero, clearly trying to get into Gonzalez’s nerves, told reporters that he was not impressed with Gonzalez’s win and that he has the style to beat him.

It remains to be seen if Gonzalez will respond positively to Casimero’s challenge, but the arrival of the flamboyant Filipino in the 112-pound class has added excitement and color to the division. Nietes, who recently gave up his WBO light flyweight title, is booked to move up to flyweight on September 24 against Mexican Edgar Sosa. Like Casimero, Nietes longs for a showdown with Gonzalez.

For all the huge odds he is facing opposite Gonzalez, Casimero knows that there is no other viable route to greatness than the one that passes through Gonzalez’s turf.

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