WITH an opportunity to become a world champion again, two-division world titleholder Johnriel Casimero won’t leave anything to chance as he targets nothing less but a knockout against Mexican up-and-comer Ricardo Espinoza.
“There’s a huge chance of a knockout. That’s our plan to knock him out so that it won’t go to a decision,” former world champion and now California-based trainer Rodel Mayol told SunStar Cebu.
The 30-year-old Casimero slugs it out with Espinoza for the interim World Boxing Organization (WBO) bantamweight title Sunday, April 21, at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
Mayol stepped in as head coach at the last minute because Casimero’s longtime head trainer Jhun Agrabio didn’t make the trip to the US.
“As what I’ve seen, the opponent has power but Casimero is way ahead in skills,” said Mayol, who knows Casimero so well despite his first time being in the latter’s corner.
Casimero hit a snag in his campaign in the super flyweight division after a surprising one-sided unanimous decision defeat in the hands of Jonas Sultan in 2017.
Casimero took a long layoff of close to a year and returned with a second round knockout of patsy Jose Pech in 2018. He returned to his championship form with an impressive sixth-round technical knockout of Japanese Kenya Yamashita last Feb. 16 in Quezon City.
“Casimero has a huge chance of winning because he is a veteran,” said Mayol. “He has to keep distance, and move in and out.”
The 21-year-old Espinoza, however, is no pushover. He is ranked No. 1 by the WBO, No. 7 in the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and No. 12 in the World Boxing Council. He has won 13 straight fights since suffering his second defeat in 2017. He is coming off a 10th-round knockout of former world title challenger Ricardo Nuñez last March 1.
Casimero tipped the scales at 116.8 pounds, while the taller Espinoza weighed-in at 117.8 pounds.
Casimero is 26-4 with 17 knockouts, while Espinoza is 23-2 with 20 knockouts.
If Casimero wins this, it’ll be his third division world title.
Casimero is a former interim WBO light flyweight champion, an IBF light flyweight champion and an IBF flyweight champion.
The winner will be first in line to fight for the WBO bantamweight belt. The current WBO bantamweight champion Zolani Tete is set to face Nonito Donaire Jr. on April 27. EKA