The last time Johnriel Casimero fought on the road, a horrific riot in the arena put his life in immediate danger.
This time around, only his title status was in jeopardy.
Fortunately for the Filipino, he figured out a way to fend off a determined Pedro Guevera in taking a 12-round split decision in their junior flyweight title bout Saturday evening in Mazatlan, Mexico.
Casimero is six months removed from surviving a terrifying ordeal in Argentina mere moments after defeating house fighter Luis Lazarte for a portion of the flyweight crown. Even the bravest of men would have opted for safer surroundings for their first defense. Casimero has a built-in audience in his native Mexico, but instead decided to once again travel to his opponent’s backyward.
Hometown advantage didn’t do much good for Guevera early on. A left hook by Casimero caught the aspiring contender early on, with an ensuing right uppercut putting him on the seat of his pants for a mandatory eight-count.
The sequence actually seemed to wake up Guevera, who came on like gangbusters immediately thereafter. Casimero struggled to reestablish his early rhythm as Guevera punched his way back into the fight. It didn’t help the Filipino any that the crowd cheered his opponent’s every move.
Constant movement from the challenger created the assumption that he was in control, but it was the defending champion who dictated the pace. Casimero didn’t waste any punches, instead cutting off the ring as he walked his man down simply to disallow Guevera loading up from the outside.
As the fight wore on, judging preference came down to the visible aggression of Guevera or the ring generalship of the defending titlist. A clash of heads in round nine brought out the ugly in Guevera, who was warned for rabbit punching and also grew sloppy in his attack as Casimero played matador defense to perfection.
Tension grew as the fight went into double-digit rounds. Guevera was twice sent to the canvas in the tenth, though both instances were correctly ruled as slips.
The final scorecards suggested the answer was both, as Casimero was forced to sweat out a split decision by fights end. Guevera was awarded the fight on one card by a one-point margin (114-113), but dreams of the Mexican hopeful keeping his unbeaten record and winning his first major title were soon dashed.
Scores of 114-113 and 116-111 came in for Casimero, who makes the first defense of his second alphabet reign as he improves to 17-2-1 (10KO). Guevera loses for the first time as a pro as he falls to 18-1-1 (13KO).
While hometown patriotism was evident throughout, the spirited crowd on hand kept it classy. The same could not be said of the last time Casimero beat the hometown favorite. His title winning stoppage over Luis Lazarte in February infuriated the Argentine fans in the house, as well as his opponent’s corner, as one man began chasing Casimero around the ring with his hands curled up in almost cartoonish fashion.
The cartoon quickly transitioned into a nightmarish drama, as chairs began flying into the ring from every direction. Casimero and his corner were left to fend for themselves before local authorities were able to rescue them from ringside and escort them into the locker room.
There were no such worries in Mexico. Casimero’s win wasn’t met with a celebratory reaction, but the fans on hand knew where to drew the line between displeasure over the decision and disdain for the winning fighter.
As a result, Casimero safely leaves Mexico with his first successful alphabet title defense. His first reign was of the interim variety, winning the belt in Dec. ’09 but losing in his very first defense on the road seven months later in Los Mochis, Mexico.
The bout marked the first of two straight losses, both coming away from his native Philippines. Casimero suffered the lone knockout loss of his career in his next fight, falling in the 5th round of his flyweight challenge against Moruti Mthalane in South Africa.
Three straight wins have followed, though more importantly his faith in the fine art of sportsmanship fully restored.
The bout is already in the books, but the fight will not be fully reviewed until after the completion of the one-hour delayed Televisa broadcast.
In the televised co-feature, Irma Sanchez brawled her way to a unanimous decision over Sharon Gaines in their ten-round flyweight bout. Scores were 99-91 (twice) and 98-92.
The scores were accurate, but not truly indicative of the competitive nature of the contest. Gaines made the mistake of believing she could win a fight on the road but purely boxing, but the Las Vegas native quickly learned what it would take in order to earn her opponent’s respect.
Sanchez – who lives and trains in Guadalajara - was able to pile up early rounds as a result, but forced to work harder with each passing round. Gaines never managed to make a dent on the scorecards but certainly made her presence felt by night’s end.
Sanchez improves to 24-5-1 (7KO), scoring her fifth straight win. The 39-year old Gaines dips to 11-14-1 (3KO), now winless in her last seven bouts dating back to 2007.