Johnriel Casimero may not have fulfilled his promise of a knockout, but he still retained his World Boxing Organization bantamweight belt.
Casimero inched closer to a potential unification after defending his title against veteran Guillermo Rigondeaux at the Dignity Health Sports Park in California on Saturday, August 14 (Sunday, August 15, Manila time).
In a slow-paced bout that saw the Cuban steer clear of action, the Filipino earned the nod of two of the three judges and hacked out a split decision win for his second successful title defense.
The judges scored the fight 117-111, 116-112, 115-113.
Casimero stalked and chased his foe throughout the 12 rounds, but Rigondeaux showed no desire to engage in a slugfest, with most of his points coming from counters.
The most exciting round arguably came in the opening salvo, when Casimero sent Rigondeaux to his knees with a barrage of head shots.
However, the referee ruled that it was not a knockdown.
For the rest of the fight, Rigondeaux backpedalled his way out of reach of the heavy-handed Casimero as the crowd grew impatient and incessantly booed the two-time Olympic gold medalist.
“My expectation was a knockout. I want a knockout and all my fans want a knockout. I did my best to knock him out but Rigondeaux always ran,” Casimero said.
The 40-year-old Rigondeaux suffered only the second defeat of his career –his record dropping to 20-2.
Casimero raised his card to 31-4 as he now set his sights on a unification against either World Boxing Council king Nonito Donaire or World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation titlist Naoya Inoue.
The pride of Ormoc City was originally slated to fight Donaire in an all-Filipino title clash, but the bout fell through after an online spat and disagreement over drug testing.
Donaire called off the duel in June as Casimero got Rigondeaux as his replacement opponent.
“Rigondeaux is finished. Second is Donaire. Next is Inoue,” Casimero said while flashing his middle finger.
Despite drawing the fans’ ire, Rigondeaux defended his evasive fighting style, saying that it is the “only one I know.”
“I was expecting a guy ready to blow my chin away and sent me to retirement. But I am not a picture on a bag,” Rigondeaux wrote on Twitter.
Adding to the series of trash talk, Rigondeaux said Casimero pales in comparison to Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao.
“Congratulations to the Filipino fans. You have a great champion, his name is Pacquiao,” Rigondeaux said. – Rappler.com