By Jake Donovan
When you fight on the road as often as does John Riel Casimero, the manner in which how you win proves less important each time than securing the actual win itself.
The diminutive Filipino once again managed just that, taking a 12-round decision over Luis Rios in their 108 lb. title fight Saturday evening in Panama City, Panama.
Scores were 119-109 (twice) and 118-110 for Casimero in an uneven affair that proved effective for the defending titlist, even if not particularly entertaining.
Casimero made noise early on as if he intended to bring the fight to the level of a back-alley brawl. Steady pressure had Rios on the defensive, eating power shots from the 23-year old who entered the fight with a sense of purpose.
Somewhere along the way, the rounds began to blend together. Neither fighter successfully took the lead, creating awkward moments and far too many stretches lacking sustained action.
Rios was never able to mount a rally, settling for one punch at a time and oddly clinching after Casimero would finish a combination or even when the titlist came forward.
The judges were handed a daunting task of offering any sort of separation between the two, with several rounds tough to score due to so little happening from bell to bell. The difference in the fight came down to Casimero controlling the tempo with his jab, at times used as a range finder but often thrown simply to keep Rios at bay.
Casimero picks up his fourth straight win as the 23-year old improves to 18-2 (10KO). The bout marked the second defense of the alphabet belt he earned on the road in Argentina when he stopped Luis Lazarte in 10 rounds last February.
The fans on hand for that bout were not at all interested in exuding sportsmanship, as Casimero was trapped in center ring while doing his best to avoid harm - or worse - during a full-scale riot initiated by Lazarte's corner. Chairs and fists began flying, with nearly every seat literally tossed into center ring during the several minutes-long melee.
No such sour grapes were spewed in Panama on this particular evening. The fans seemed resigned to the fact that it just wasn't their guy's night, booing the lack of action in the final few rounds but never to the point of blatant disrespect for either fighter.
Rios didn't have to agree with the outcome in order to live with it, as he falls to 18-2-1 (13KO) with the loss. The rising contender entered the fight having won seven straight, a run that includes avenging the lone loss of his career - a 4th round shoulder injury stoppage against Luis Carillo in April '10 - with a fifth round stoppage in their rematch last April.
The televised co-feature saw Roberto Vasquez and Mark John Apolinario fought to a 12-round draw for the second time in four months. A full recap of the bout and remaining undercard can be found
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: