AT LONG last, International Boxing Federation flyweight champion Johnreil Casimero is getting the attention he richly deserves as the vaunted “Road Warrior,” following his rousing 10th-round TKO victory over unbeaten British flyweight champion Charlie Edwards before 18,500 fight fans at the O2 Arena in London last week.
Casimero hoped for a hero’s welcome on his return from London after retaining the title he won with a rousing 4th-round knockout of Thailand’s Amnat Ruenroeng in Beijing, China, where referee Tony Weeks was the third man in the ring, unlike the utterly incompetent Leslie Doggett, who presided over a farcical bout in their first meeting in Thailand.
Doggett allowed Amnat to resort to all sorts of illegal acts, but after a protest filed by promoter Sammy Gello-ani, the IBF allowed a rematch and named the competent Weeks as third man in the ring. And he did the kind of job you would expect of him, resulting in a smashing 4th-round knockout by Casimero, who did not allow Amnat to get away with illegal blows and Muay Thai style takedowns.
Over at London’s famous O2 Arena where, Casimero put on a show and dismantled Edwards in 10 rounds, winning nine rounds and conceding only the 5th round. Casimero toyed with the 23-year-old British champion en route to a smashing 10th-round TKO.
In London, Casimero, described by boxing man Sean Gibbons in an interview with us on the sidelines of the Jerwin Ancajas-McJoe Arroyo super flyweight title bout as “the best kept secret in Philippine boxing,” had asked his co-promoter Sammy Gello-ani whether he would get a hero’s welcome on his return.
He got much more than that.
We were at the airport with a Viva Sports crew to cover his arrival, along with our friends from ABS-CBN and had an interview with him, trainer Jhun Agrabio, who has done a tremendous job with promoter Gello-ani.
But the best was yet to come.
The Games and Amusements Board, under newly appointed chairman Abraham Mitra, son of the illustrious former speaker Ramon “Monching” Mitra, boxing division chief Dr. Nasser Cruz and the entire GAB staff, gave Casimero a raucous welcome, complete with pom-pomps, confetti, music and resounding cheers extolling “Cas-I- Mero! Cas-I-Mero!
It was truly a welcome fit for a champion and a sign that the new GAB chairman had our champions like Casimero close to his heart.
His welcome remarks were touching and Casimero’s response when he couldn’t help but almost break down and shed a tear was equally emotional.
Gello-ani recalled how Casimero left the country for Argentina to fight the IBF light flyweight champion Luis Lazarte and won by a 10th-round TKO in a riot-marred fight, where Johnreil had to be bundled under the ring to save him from irate and drunken fans and couldn’t even receive his belt.
Johnreil’s brother had died before he left for his historic journey and he asked that the burial be held only when he returns as a champion…and he did, adding to the glory of the road warrior.
Since then, Casimero fought against opponents in their hometowns in Panama, Colombia, Mexico, Thailand and China, where he won the IBF flyweight rematch with Amnat.
His GAB welcome was by far the most amazing and showed that Chairman Mitra, who pointed out that president Rody Duterte, who himself was a fighter of the highest order, was the good luck charm, having seen Marlon Tapales win the WBO bantamweight title from Thailand’s Pungluang Sor Singyu and Jerwin Ancajas’ lopsided decision over Puerto Rico’s champion Arroyo.
In the Senate, Casimero was also accorded a rousing welcome from the Senate leadership, headed by Senate president Koko Pimentel and eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao and the other leaders, giving Casimero the hero’s welcome he had longed for.
Boxing is the one sport that has brought our country innumerable honors and it’s only right and just that our leaders give our courageous champions the welcome they deserve.