Casimero stops Franco, cops WBO interim bantam crown
MANILA, Philippines – Johnriel Casimero's power is still lethal at 118 pounds.
Pitted against knockout specialist Ricardo Espinosa Franco, the Filipino pulled off a stunner by stopping the Mexican in the 12th round to clinch the World Boxing Organization (WBO) interim bantamweight crown Saturday night, April 20 (Sunday, April 21, Manila time) at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
Fighting in the division for the first time in his first stint in the United States, Casimero – the former International Boxing Federation light flyweight and flyweight titlist – proved he can deal with bigger guys by dominating Franco, who is 9 years younger at 21 and 3 inches taller and longer at 5-foot-7.
Living up to his promise that either one of them is going to go down, Casimero engaged Franco toe-to-toe and showed he's the better puncher when he downed Franco, who owned a 10-knockout streak before the bout, in the 6th round.
Despite that knockdown, the fight was tight with the judges' scorecards showing 105-103 for Casimero, 103-105 for Franco, and an even 104-104 heading to the fateful round where Franco again beat the clock only to be met by a barrage of punches, forcing the referee to stop the bout with 44 seconds to go.
In scoring his 18th knockout in 27 wins against 4 losses, Casimero continued his climb back to the top following an unexpected defeat to compatriot Jonas Sultan in a 115-pound title eliminator in 2017.
Casimero also lined himself up for the WBO regular bantamweight crown to be dangled by South African Zolani Tete against World Boxing Association counterpart Nonito Donaire on April 27 in the World Boxing Super Series at Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Sans his longtime trainer Jhun Agrabio, who was unable to secure a US visa, the pride of Ormoc City was guided at his corner by former world champion Rodel Mayol, who is now based in Los Angeles, where he is making his mark as a trainer.
Casimero's fight against Franco (23-3, 20 KOs) – originally for the WBO international title – was arranged by international matchmaker Sean Gibbons, who is in Japan with eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao.
Gibbons' son, Brendan, and wife, Valerie, were among those who cheered on Casimero. – Rappler.com
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