One of the world's top light flyweights was in action last night as John Riel Casimero kept hold of his IBF crown against challenger Luis Alberto Rios at Megapolis Convention Center in Panama City, Panama.
Casimero, 18-2 (10), is no stranger to fighting in his opponent's back yard and that's just what the 23 year old from Cebu City, Philippines did last evening, outpointing Panama City man Rios, 18-2-1 (13), also 23 years of age, over 12 rounds.
Despite having the local audience behind him and coming into the bout on the heels of an IBF eliminator stoppage over Felipe Salguero, Rios was unable to
over come the experience and skill advantage of Casimero, who handily outboxed the challenger by scores of 119-109, 119-109 and 118-110.
Retaining his title for the first time, Casimero is at the high point of career that has seen him win the Interim IBF light flyweight belt against Cesar Canchila in 2009, lose it a year later by split decision to Ramon Garcia Hirales and then get stopped by Moruti Mthalane in five for the IBF flyweight strap in 2011.
Undaunted, "Quadro Alas" regained the Interim IBF light fly title in 2012 by stopping Luis Alberto Lazarte in ten before capturing the full IBF trophy in August of that year with a split decision against challenger Pedro Guevera.
The amazing thing about all those bouts is that Casimero was the visiting fighter in every one of those contests. Prior to 2009, Casimero enjoyed home cooking for every one of his bouts but since then, has been the home fighter just once.
Rios sees the end of a seven contest win streak, in which he annexed the WBO Latino light fly bauble to go along with his earlier acquisitions of the WBA Fedelatin, WBO Latino and Panamanian minimumweight titles.
The most entertaining fight on the bill last night was another Philippines vs. Panama battle between local southpaw Roberto Vasquez, 32-5-2 (22), and tourist John Mark Apolinario, 17-2-3 (4).
The pair were revisiting their initial clash, like this one, also for the Interim WBA bantamweight crown, this past November in Argentina in which a draw was declared after 12 rounds of combat.
Damn if lightning didn't strike twice because last night's result was the same. After 24 rounds of action, neither Vasquez or Apolinario have seen a hand raised in victory.
Ex-WBA light fly kingpin Vasquez was looking to get back onto the world stage for the first time since giving up his title in 2006 to move up in weight.