CHICAGO - What really happened to John Riel Casimero this past weekend?
Amid swirling rumors that he labored to make the 115-pound limit, it's been alleged that the self-described "Angas Ng Pinas" intentionally missed the official weigh-in under the guise of a medical emergency.
But his camp adamantly insisted that brash-talking social media darling was knocked out by "viral gastritis."
Hence, the no-show on the scales, and subsequently, a title fight scrapped.
Obviously, there are two contrasting stories here, and the WBO will have its hands full in the next eight days when it attempts to unearth the truth from the fine, hot sand of Dubai.
What's crystal clear for now, though, is that John Riel, a huge minus 2400 favorite who would have probably handled Paul Butler with little trouble, missed out on an easy payday .
And that, according to a former ally, is a self-inflicted wound.
"I was very sad about the situation. But this was all caused by John Riel Casimero and his brilliant advisers," said Sean Gibbons, the president of Manny Pacquiao Promotions, the promotional giant that was noticeably missing from Casimero's fistic jaunt into the smoldering desert.
In case you've been behind on your gym gossip lately, the previously intimate relationship between Casimero and MP Promotions had turned cold like December.
AND WHILE BOTH SIDES WON'T CONFIRM A DEFINITE, NO-TURNING-BACK SPLIT FROM EACH OTHER, THERE CLEARLY IS A LOVE QUARREL IN THE AIR.
It started, sources told SPIN.ph, after Casimero won a close decision over Guillermo Rigondeaux last August, his second title defense.
"He was advised to stay" (here in the States), said Gibbons, who was plotting his ward's next best move.
But Casimero, 32, went back to the Philippines instead and insisted he could continue training there.
"He was smarter than everybody," added Gibbons.
Casimero then severed ties with longtime mentor Noynoy Neri and installed his brother, Jayson, as the new chief trainer. Also affected by the revamp was world-renowned strength and conditioning coach Memo Heredia, who was dismissed in lieu of Stephen Lunas,
And then John Riel stopped answering Gibbons' calls and messages.
With the communication lines broken, MP Promotions decided it was not in its best interest to make a purse bid on Casimero's third title defense, which explains why the 5-foot-4 champ (31-4, 21 KOs) from Ormoc city only had a very modest purse of $78,750 for his scheduled bout at the Coca Cola Arena.
Gibbons isn't one to cry over spilled milk but he did regret the fact that the Dubai flop was avoidable.
"Had he stayed with Memo, John Riel would have been in amazing shape," Gibbons confessed.
Increasingly disenchanted over how a once-robust and professionally-managed partnership has spiraled into some sort of a clown show, Gibbons is warm to the idea of a reconciliation.
GIBBONS, AFTER ALL, IS AN ASTUTE BUSINESSMAN, AN ETERNAL OPTIMIST WHO BELIEVES IN HOPE OVER DESPAIR.
"The relationship is open to be fixed," said the affable manager-promoter known as "The Mechanic" for his penchant for getting things done and championing lost causes.
"We did nothing wrong and welcome Mr. Casimero to come back. Mr. Casimero received really bad advice from his ignorant brother Jayson, and adviser Stephen Lunas."
Will the blonde-haired bantameight prince with two hands of stone let bygones be bygones and accept the olive branch?
I reached out to Casimero's camp seeking comment. I have yet to receive a reply.
But through his wildly popular YouTube channel named "Quadro Alas It's My Boy," John Riel told 290,000 of his closest friends and followers that he will fly back to the Philippines next week and then look to return to the ring in February or March of 2022.
Which means this riveting boxing drama will have to unravel at least throughout the Holidays.
Hopefully, Santa is a boxing fan and will give John Riel and MP Promotions the gift of reconciliation.