Nomadic junior flyweight titleholder Johnriel Casimero retained his IBF belt with a tough split-decision victory over Pedro Guevara Saturday night at the Centro de Convenciones in Guevara’s hometown of Mazatlan, Mexico.
Official Ruben M. Diaz scored the bout 114-113 for Guevara, but was overruled by Levi Martinez and Matthew Podgorski, who scored the bout 114-113 and 116-111, respectively, for the incumbent champion. Both fighters checked in right at the 108-pound weight limit.
Casimero (17-2, 10 knockouts), of Ormoc City, Philippines, was making his first defense a mere two weeks after being upgraded from interim status to full champion after Ulises Solis declared himself medically ineligible to defend following a jaw injury incurred during an alleged street fight with WBC junior middleweight champ Saul Alvarez. Casimero is now rated No. 8 by THE RING at junior flyweight.
Seeking credibility for his title reign, Casimero stormed out at Guevara (18-1-1, 13 KOs), scoring a knockdown in the first minute of the fight with a right uppercut followed by a short cross as the Mexican was going down. Casimero continued to press the mobile Guevara, whose lanky frame and punching style evokes comparisons to his promoter, former world champion Erik Morales.
Guevara, 23, recovered well in round two and began to break up the staccato rhythm of the shorter Casimero but effectively used double and triple jabs that opened up opportunities for Guevara’s right cross.
That pattern continued until the fourth round. As Guevara’s confidence began to grow, he turned to the crowd momentarily and smiled as a frustrated Casimero lunged into a clinch. Moments later, just before the bell, a clean left hook from Casimero stunned Guevara, turning the momentum. Casimero continued to stalk a more tentative Guevara, but often resorted to throwing wide, inaccurate shots as Guevara used the ring to create space.
Guevara fell to the canvas in the sixth round as Casimero closed in. Though a punch didn’t land, Guevara reacted as if a foul had landed. Referee Ray Corona warned that he would rule that a knockdown if it happened.
Guevara would go down three more times in the tenth round after contact from Casimero but all three would be ruled slips. After each trip to the canvas, Casimero would try to press the advantage but was unable to land with the accuracy that brought him close to an early victory in round one. As both men tried to stage late rallies to affect the final decision, the bell for the twelfth round sounded a minute early.
Though just 22 years of age, Casimero has already traveled the globe seeking opportunities, facing IBF flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane, as well as former champs Ramon Hirales, Cesar Canchilla and Luis Lazarte in such countries as South Africa, Mexico, Nicaragua and Argentina. In his previous bout, Casimero scored a tenth-round technical knockout of Lazarte in Lazarte’s backyard, touching off a mini riot that resulted in Casimero seeking refuge underneath the ring.
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.
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