JOHNRIEL CASIMERO restored Philippine boxing pride when he retained his International Boxing Federation junior flyweight crown on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time) after scoring a split decision over Pedro Guevara at the Mazatlan Convention Center in Sinaloa, Mexico.
The 22-year-old Filipino won it by scores of 116-111 (Matthew Podgorski) and 114-113 (Levi Martinez), and losing by the same score of 114-113 in the other (Ruben Garcia) in his first defense of the 108lb title.
His win came less than 24 hours after Mark Anthony Barriga lost in his bid for an Olympic medal following a 16-17 heartbreaker over Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazakhstan in the round-of-16 of the 49kg division of the London Games.
Casimero won a second straight fight outside of the country. In February, he stopped Argentine veteran Luis Lazarte in the 10th of a scheduled 12-round fight that was marred by a riot when the Filipino crew was attacked by irate supporters of the local bet.
No such incident happened this time as the young Filipino readily made his presence felt after scoring a flash knockdown right in the opening round behind a crisp uppercut that stunned Guevara.
The Mexican survived the round and made a fight out of it the rest of the way.
Guevara also went down in rounds six, 10, and 11, but all were ruled out as slips by the referee.
Casimero improved his record to 17-2, with 10 KOs. Guevara meanwhile suffered his first career loss as a pro and dropped to 18-1-1, with 13 KOs.