past couple of years, Johnriel Casimero, 16-2 (10), has become somewhat of a
road warrior, with four of his last five bouts taking place away from home.
Going behind enemy lines isn’t a problem for the globetrotting 22-year-old
Filipino who’s performed in a wide array of countries including Nicaragua,
Mexico, South Africa and Argentina. During that time, he’s won the WBO and IBF
interim light flyweight titles. Recently,
he travelled to Argentina, halfway around the world for Casimero and his
handlers. They endured a hellacious journey, leaving Cebu in the Philippines
on 4th February on a 10-and-a-half hour flight to Doha,
Qatar. From there, they kicked off another 14 hours and 45 minutes en
route to Sao Paulo, Brazil before jetting off once more for two hours and 45 minutes
toward Buenos Aires, Argentina. Finally, from the Argentine capital, it took a
relatively scant 55 minutes to make the fight destination, Mar Del Plata, on
Monday, 6th February. The stress somewhat melted when Casimero upset grizzled former champion Luis Lazarte
to win the aforementioned IBF crown but his joy turned to fear when he and
several members of his team were viciously attacked in the aftermath, leaving
them fearing for their lives http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlKs01405dY. The well-respected Sean Gibbons, matchmaker for
Zanfer (who was working with Casimero for the bout and suffered two broken ribs
in the riot), recounted the post-fight events, “Before the fight, I felt that
it was very volatile in the arena. I actually texted a couple of friends back
in the U.S. joking that, ‘If we win tonight, this place is going to riot’...So during the fight, Lazarte bit
Casimero twice and I was yelling at him from the corner. Then he came into our
corner in the sixth round and threatened me. This got the crowd fired up and the
next round, I was hit with a bottle between rounds and two
people physically tried to attack me. So after the fight, when Casimero
stopped Lazarte, [Lazarte] jumped on the ropes to celebrate and the local mob
did not take kindly to his celebration and began to climb on the ring and in
the ring and throw chairs. It was at this point when some coward snuck up
behind me and punched me in the ribs from behind. At this point, things
were flying all around and people were attacking the boxer and me and
Casimero's cornermen. At this point, I was hurt and could have been of no
assistance and rolled out the ring and was kicked and hit in the head.
Thanks to two police officers that pulled me to safety, I was not
hurt worse.” Keeping his sense of humour, Gibbons quipped, “I went to a
boxing match in Argentina and a soccer game broke out. Don’t cry for me,
Argentina!” With the incident firmly behind him, Casimero is now looking
forward. He’s booked for a rare appearance at home against Sammy Gutierrez possibly at the end of
Anson Wainwright – Firstly, belated congratulations
on a terrific win over Luis Lazarte in Argentina. If we can talk about the
fight first, can you tell us about it from your point of view? How happy were
you with your performance?
Johnriel Casimero - I believed that I
deserved to win after I decked him twice. I was very happy because I did not
let his dirty tactics affect me at all; my focus was still there. I was
determined to win – for my country, my brother and family and for myself.
AW - After you won, there was chaos in
the ring when you and several members of your team were viciously attacked.
Could you tell us what happened?
JC - I did not expect the riot after the
fight at all. Our team was really caught by surprise of the sudden chaos that
happened after the fight. Chairs, plastic bottles were thrown into the ring,
rowdy men charged inside the ring. We had to cover ourselves and protect
ourselves all the time. We were kicked and punched even when my promoter, Sammy
Gello-ani, and trainer, Pingping Tepora, were already down beside the ring.
Angry people swarmed over them; they felt the pain but they cannot fight back. Me,
I was already under the ring hiding but it was terribly hot – I felt dizzy and
was about to faint due to almost dehydration until one Argentinean Osvaldo
Rivero, who became our friend, pulled me out and brought me to the dressing
room where my team was waiting.
AW - The IBF light flyweight champion
Ulises Solis was injured, so you fought Lazarte for the interim championship.
Solis has to meet you by October or he’ll be stripped. What are your thoughts
on meeting Solis?
JC - I am ready for him anytime. I saw
his fight with Lazarte twice and there is no doubt that I will beat him.
AW – You have fought your last five bouts
in Nicaragua, Mexico, South Africa, the Philippines and Argentina. What do you
make of fighting in all these different places?
JC - After fighting in these countries,
I have gotten used to travel already. I have adjusted very well with these
AW - Your fight with Cesar Canchila in
late 2009 was an all-out war. It moved you into the world-class and, for many
fight fans, it was the first time they saw you fight. Can you tell us about
JC - I showed everyone that I have good
boxing talent when I beat Canchila in my first fight outside the Philippines.
Canchila was a good boxer and world-class. It made me feel good; I have proven
that I was ready to fight any world-class fighter.
AW - The two losses on your record are
to Ramon Hirales via split decision and Moruti Mthalane in an IBF flyweight
fight by fifth round TKO. What are your thoughts on those two fights?
JC - When I fought Hirales, the climate
in Mexico was too hot to bear and it affected me same with the food. This added
to my incomplete training and poor conditioning. With Mthalane, the notice
was so short, that made me panic. Mthalane is also bigger in size and I have
made an error in moving up in weight to be a flyweight.
AW - Who are the members of your team
and where do you regularly train?
JC - I belong to the Omega Boxing Gym of
International Pharmaceuticals in Mabolo, Cebu City, owned by Jun Pe Castillo
and managed by James Osorio. My Philippine promoter is no other than SGG Sports
Promotions of Samson Gello-ani, who has Sampson Boxing’s Sampson Lewkowicz as
his international partner. I have Christopher Tepora as my trainer.
AW - Could you tell us about your
JC - I train regularly, do the basic
exercises and, as much as possible, non-stop training until a week before my
fight. I eat food rich in protein to give me the much needed energy.
AW - Could you tell us about your
younger days growing up in Ormoc City, Leyte, Philippines? How did you first
become interested in boxing?
JC - I grew up as a good boy. I was very
much concentrated on my studies up to fourth year of high school. Amateur boxing
is offered in our school; I got interested in it, so I joined and came out
winning tournaments. That is when I decided to make boxing my career.
AW - Can you tell us a little about
yourself as a person, your home life and what your hobbies and interests are?
Do you have a day job/business away from boxing?
JC - I am a man of few words. We are a
close-knit family. I love my family and that is exactly the reason why I am
working hard for them. I would love to see my family live in comfort – just
When I am not training, I engage in a
little soccer, basketball and shooting but my passion is boxing. As of the moment,
I have no business yet but with God’s blessings, I plan to put one in God’s
AW - Who were your boxing heroes growing
up? Who do you like to watch today?
JC - Of course, our one and only Manny
Pacquiao. You mean in boxing, I like to watch all fights, especially in the
junior flyweight division so that I can see how the world-class fighters under
this division fight and who knows? I might have the chance to fight with them.
AW – Finally, do you have a message for
boxing fans around the world?
JC - First and foremost, I thank God for
all the blessings He has given me, for always being there, especially in times
when I am disappointed, for the enlightenment and for making me, my family and
my loved ones healthy. Secondly, to all those who believe in my capabilities,
to my management team for all the support and understanding they have accorded
me. For without them, I will not have the success I have been dreaming of.
To all my countrymen, always believe
that we, Filipino boxers, do not always dream for the glory and honor for
ourselves only- but for the whole country.