Can John Riel Casimero make himself relevant again?

The road to redemption begins on Dec. 3 for former WBO bantamweight ruler John Riel Casimero when he takes on Japanese Ryo Akaho in a 12-round non-title bout to be fought at 122 pounds in Incheon, South Korea.

Casimero (35-2, 21 KOs) twice blew title fights against Britain’s Paul Butler, forcing the WBO to strip him of his title. The first time, in December 2021, he had to be hospitalized due to viral gastritis just days before the bout. The second time, he foolishly posted a photo of himself trying to lose weight in a sauna in Liverpool, again just days before fight night, a violation that prompted the British Board of Control (BBoC) to prevent him from fighting.

Hopefully Casimero won’t encounter weight issues this time with the fight against Akaho (39-2-2, 26 KOs) at super bantamweight. He hasn’t been in the ring since defeating Guillermo Rigondeaux in a snoozefest 15 months ago, and now that he’s title-less he needs to make some noise. Casimero has always been a tantalizing fighter: fearless, entertaining, confident, but sometimes a bit too reckless for his own good.

“This is a very important fight because it’s the only thing he needs right now – a fight,” a Philippine boxing insider, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Rivalry. “It depends on how he performs but John Riel actually has a decent chance of making himself relevant once more, considering that his upcoming foe is highly rated by the WBO in the super bantamweight division (no. 8).”

A heavy-handed puncher, the big question for Casimero is if he can be as powerful at 122 considering he’s only 5’4”. Akaho is two inches taller and has fought his last seven bouts (all wins) at super bantamweight, with his last victim being Filipino Edrin Dapudong who lost via knockout.

“(Akaho) could be a tough opponent for Casimero because the Japanese has been a longtime resident of the division,” the insider said. “Remember in boxing, one pound could make or break a fight. We’re talking of three pounds above Casimero’s supposed regular weight class which is the bantamweight division.

“I have doubts about Casimero carrying his power at 122 because he is actually a small super bantamweight. He started out as a light flyweight and at age 33, he should have settled in a specific division by this time, which I think is 118 lbs.” 

Akaho, though, has never won a major belt, losing by knockout to Thailand’s Panya Uthok in their WBO bantamweight fight in August 2015 and by unanimous decision to countryman Yota Sato for the WBC super flyweight strap in December 2012. And while he’s in the WBO’s top ten at 122, he really hasn’t beaten anyone of note.

“As a superbantamweight, it cannot be said that Akaho is a feared boxer despite being highly-ranked,” the insider said. “He slowly moved up the WBO rankings by beating handpicked foes, good enough to make him look good.”

Regardless, this will be a good test for Casimero. If he can get past Akaho, then he’ll put his name back into the conversation of big fights at either 118 or 122.  If he opts to stay at super bantamweight, then he could finally face Naoya Inoue, who has made known his desire to move up from 118 after his unification bout against Butler which takes place on Dec. 13. 

If he chooses to return to 118, there won’t be a shortage of big fights for him there. Butler will still be an option, or even showdowns with fellow Filipinos Nonito Donaire, Jr. and Jerwin Ancajas. The insider, though, feels Casimero, who broke away from MP Promotions last year, needs to address one thing first.

“For one of these fights to materialize, he should first settle who his promoter and/or manager is. Truth be said, this sport is all about business where you need to have the right connections.”

(Photo by Alvin S. Go/RealfightPH)


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