UNCASVILLE, Connecticut – John Riel Casimero acknowledges he’ll encounter a legitimate threat to his championship reign Saturday night.
The WBO bantamweight champ is in no way overlooking Ghana’s Duke Micah, who’ll challenge him in their 12-round, 118-pound title fight at Mohegan Sun Arena. The heavy-handed Filipino fighter cannot help but wonder, however, what would’ve happened had he got in the ring with Naoya Inoue.
Japan’s Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs) and Casimero (29-4, 20 KOs) were supposed to square off in a bantamweight championship unification fight April 25 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. That ESPN event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was not rescheduled.
“I was disappointed,” Casimero told BoxingScene.com. “Inoue, at the end, he didn’t wanna fight me. He said he had problems with his back and then he decided to fight someone else. The reason I’m disappointed is because I truly believe I would’ve knocked Inoue out.”
Inoue instead will defend his IBF and WBA titles against Australia’s Jason Moloney (21-1, 18 KOs) on October 31 at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. If Casimero can overcome Micah (24-0, 19 KOs) in the opening bout of Showtime Pay-Per-View’s six-fight telecast (7 p.m. ET; $74.95) and Inoue beats Moloney, Casimero would be open to rescheduling his fight with Inoue.
Casimero has plenty of options, though, if the Inoue fight cannot be put back together.
“We’re gonna look at what Inoue does,” said Sean Gibbons, Casimero’s adviser. “We’re not locked into Inoue anymore. Guillermo Rigondeaux is a champion at 118. Luis Nery, if he wins the [WBC] 122-pound belt [against Aaron Alameda on Saturday night], Casimero has showed interest in him and going for a fourth world title. Everything’s on the table.
“Whatever’s the best opportunity, the quickest that we can make something happen, we’ll do it. We’re not gonna get put in another situation where we’re waiting for anybody again. We did that and that game’s over. Casimero is a world champion. If [the Inoue fight] can be revisited in the right way, we will. If not, there’s a lot of other opportunities out there.”
Gibbons guided Casimero in a different direction than Inoue because it became clear that fight wouldn’t work financially without fans being able to attend in Las Vegas. Inoue will meet Moloney without fans in attendance, within promoter Top Rank’s “bubble.”
“What it really came down to was to do a fight of this magnitude,” Gibbons said of Inoue-Casimero, “for the MGM and everybody that was involved, it was kind of based on having Japanese fans there and bringing the high-rollers in. And unfortunately, you couldn’t do that. So, it was just a simple economic thing. It just didn’t work out because of COVID-19. It had nothing to do with money, per se. It was just the situation we were in. It just couldn’t happen.”
Had it happened, Gibbons also is convinced Casimero would’ve knocked out the undefeated three-division champion nicknamed “Monster.”
“Inoue’s defense is horrible,” Gibbons said. “And styles make fights. Look what Nonito Donaire did [against Inoue]. Donaire was 37, going on 50, and he lit him up. Casimero is what Nonito Donaire was in his late 20s. He can fight as well as Donaire, he can punch as well as Donaire, and he has killer instinct, which Nonito has lost. Nonito had the ability to fight with Inoue, but he didn’t have that extra gear that Casimero has these days.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.