FORMER International Boxing Federation (IBF) light flyweight (108 pounds) champion Jhonriel Casimero will gun for his second division crown this weekend when he takes on IBF flyweight king Amnat Ruenroeng of Thailand in a scheduled 12-round bout at the Hua Mark Indoor Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.
Shaving the Thai lion inside his den does not figure to be a walk in the zoo for Casimero. For one, Amnat offers a slippery boxing style that has frustrated many a foe. A late fistic bloomer at age 35, Amnat (15-0, 5 knockouts) became a star in his native Thailand last March 7, when he defeated the heavily-hyped Zou Shiming of China by unanimous decision. Amnat recovered from a debatable knockdown in the second stanza to outclass the former two-time Olympic gold medalist. Whenever Zou got too close for comfort, Amnat tied up the Chinese and nailed him with short hooks on the inside. Amnat further kept Shiming at a safe distance with a plethora of jabs and right straights.
Amnat’s style borders on the boring but it gets the job done. The victory over Shiming was Amnat’s fourth successful defense of the IBF flyweight crown he captured with a points win over Filipino slugger Rocky Fuentes in January 2014. Truth be told, Amnat has not scored a knockout win since August 2013, when he halted Japanese journeyman Takuro Habu in four rounds.
Amnat’s story is one seemingly lifted from a Hollywood script. He never knew his father and earned notoriety as a street fighter. He went to jail in 2006 for the third time and was originally sentenced to 15 years in jail for committing robbery. Boxing provided the Thai a ticket out of the slammer. Taking part in a prison boxing program, Amnat excelled and he was subsequently released for good behavior. Amnat turned pro in 2012 and completed his Cinderella-like story when he defeated Fuentes to become world boxing champion.
Casimero, of course, is out to pen his own feel-good story. The 25-year-old Casimero held the IBF light flyweight belt for almost two years before he was stripped for failing to make the weight in his May 2014 defense against Colombian Mauricio Fuentes. Despite being forced to wear bigger gloves as a penalty, Casimero demolished Fuentes in one round.
Casimero, 21-2 with 13 knockouts, has won his last seven fights, five by knockouts, and is reporting for battle with a lot of confidence against Ruenroeng. Amid Ruenroeng’s reputation as a fleet-footed boxer, the Filipino challenger believes he has concocted the ideal fight plan. “Madali lang yun (Ruenroeng’s style),” Casimero told this writer. “May bago akong style para sa kanya, hindi ko nga lang pwede sabihin kasi secret ko ito. Makikita na lang nila kung paano ko siya pababagsakin.”
Casimero confides that he is now on his own after developing a rift with his last manager. “Natuto akong tumayo ngayon sa sarili ko. Kahit na walang sumusuporta pinagsisikapan ko talaga.”
Casimero is making his second bid for the flyweight crown. In March 2011, while reigning as the interim World Boxing Organization (WBO) light flyweight champ, he made a sudden leap to the flyweight division and was repulsed in five rounds by then IBF ruler Moruthi “Babyface” Mthalane of South Africa. For the fight with Ruenroeng, Casimero is making sure that he is more accustomed to the 112-pound class. He became the mandatory challenger to Ruenroeng last December, when he bamboozled Mexican Armando “Cobra” Santos in two rounds.
“Ang masasabi ko lang sa laban naming ngayon ni Ruenroeng hindi ko hahayaan ang pagkakataon at tatalunin ko talaga siya,” said Casimero. “At sa mga fans ko na patuloy na sumusuporta sa akin, maraming salamat po. Ipagdasal na lang po ninyo ako sa laban.”
Amnat makes for a tough nut, but Casimero ardently believes he has the requisite artillery to crack the wily Thai champ.