IT is not easy to be John Riel Casimero. While the 22-year-old boxer from Ormoc City, Leyte is on record as the reigning International Boxing Federation (IBF) light flyweight champion, many doubt his rightful claim to the 108-pound plum.
The manner by which Casimero collared the IBF crown is the primary reason why the boxing jury is still out on his true fistic worth. Last month, the IBF Championship Committee decided to finally recognize Casimero as champion after ruling that the real champion, Ulises Solis of Mexico, was physically incapable of defending the title on or before October 30.
As can be deduced, Casimero became the IBF light flyweight king via the backdoor. A year ago, Casimero was given a chance to win an IBF crown the traditional way when he fought South African Moruti Mthalane for the IBF flyweight championship. Mthalane knocked out Casimero in five rounds.
After failing miserably at 112 pounds (flyweight), Casimero moved down to 108 pounds (light flyweight) in February this year and challenged Luis Alberto Lazarte in Argentina for the interim IBF light flyweight crown. An interim belt is not a regular championship. As the word “interim” suggests, it is only a temporary title, making its holder a mere “caretaker” champ. The primary duty of an interim champion is to keep the belt warm until the real champion returns. For his efforts, an interim champion is rewarded with a shot at the regular world title. Of course, if the real champion decides to leave the throne for good, the interim champ may end up being named the new king.
Casimero stopped Zarate in 10 rounds to take the interim belt. Unfortunately for Casimero, he never got to savor the win as the pro-Lazarte crowd went ballistic and threw chairs and other debris in the ring. The IBF banned Lazarte for life, but the punishment made no sense as the latter was set to retire anyway.
As for Casimero, the interim champ found himself in a position to legitimize his claim to the IBF light flyweight crown. All Casimero needed to do was wait for Solis’ return and challenge the Mexican to a showdown. It did not happen that way, as Solis failed to return within the time frame set by the IBF. Casimero was instead declared the regular champion by the IBF, a move that is not really popular as it created the impression that the Filipino became a champion by a stroke of a pen.
Casimero recently defended his newly legitimized IBF title, dodging defeat with a split-decision win over Mexican Pedro Guevara. To his credit, Casimero, 17-2 with 10 knockouts, declared after the fight that he is willing to take on all comers, including Solis.
Truth be told, it is imperative for Casimero to face and defeat Solis. Solis, 34-2 with 21 knockouts, has been one of the most dominant light flyweight champions. He first won the IBF belt in 2006 and defended it eight times before losing to Brian Viloria in 2009. Solis regained the title in April 2011 by beating Lazarte and had made one successful defense (a unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Filipino Jethro Oliva in August 2011) when he figured in a street brawl with World Boxing Council super welterweight champ Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Solis suffered a broken jaw and a cracked tooth from the incident and was rendered unfit to defend the IBF light flyweight title.
Casimero and Solis are likely to meet down the road. Solis will be favored owing to his skill and experience, but expect Casimero to show up highly motivated.
If he beats Solis, Casimero will send his critics chirping with the birds. That long-overdue recognition will finally be his to relish.