By Ronnie Nathanielsz
Johnriel Casimero retained his International Boxing Federation (IBF) light flyweight title with a close split decision win over previously undefeated Mexican challenger Pedro Guevara at the Mazatlan Convention Center in Sinaloa, Mexico, Saturday night.
Judge Levi Martinez had Casimero ahead by one point 114-113 while Matthew Podgorski had the Filipino the winner by a comfortable 116-111 margin. The third judge Dr. Ruben Garcia scored the fight for the hometown boy 114-113. Garcia is the same judge who, despite the domination of Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire when he won the WBO super bantamweight title against Wilfredo Vazquez Jr last February, scored the fight for Vazquez Jr in a scorecard that was heavily booed by fans at the Alamadome in San Antonio, Texas.
With the win, Casimero improved to 17-2 with 10 knockouts while Guevara, who suffered his first setback despite a gallant stand, dropped to 18-1-1 with 13 knockouts.
A stunning first round flash knockdown by Casimero dropped Guevara with a perfectly timed uppercut. He followed it up with another knockdown in round six when he caught the Mexican on the side of the head but referee Ramon Corona ruled it a slip as he also did when Guevara went down twice in round ten, one of which for sure was a result of being off-balance.
Guevara, to his credit, fought back using his height and reach and good boxing skills to make it a close fight.
However, Casimero connected with the more telling punches and was also the more aggressive fighter pushing the action in the so-called championship rounds despite Guevara being cheered on by his hometown crowd.
In a post fight interview Casimero told BoxingScene.com/Manila Standard “He kept running and I got tired chasing him and although only one knockdown was called by the referee the second knockdown in round six helped get the decision.”
Promoter Sammy Gello-ani told us “I was worried because its not easy to fight in Mexico. Its very difficult. He had to drop Guevara to win and I am happy that he did and also happy with the result.”
He said he told Casimero “go after him, you can win.” He also indicated that Casimero’s timing was off “because Guevara ran."
Gello-ani noted that Casimero had to win the interim title fighting abroad when he scored a 10th round TKO over Argentina’s Luis Lazarte which was marred by a post-fight riot in which Casimero, trainer Christopher “Pingping” Tepora and Gello-ani himself were attacked and hurt by members of the truckers union associated with Lazarte.
Casimero also fought for the IBF flyweight title against Moruti Mthalane in South Africa and lost by a 5th round TKO last March, and failed in his bid to win WBO interim title in Mexico when he lost a split decision to Ramon Garcia Hirales who subsequently lost the title to Donnie Nietes in Bacolod City last October.
Gello-ani said “I want to bring the next title defense home but we need financial help from sponsors and AKTV IBC 13 to be able to afford it otherwise we will be forced to stage the optional defense abroad.”