A mouthwatering matchup, we tell you the action and outcome from Zolani Tete vs John Riel Casimero
Arena Birmingham, in England’s Second City, is a rather strange venue in which to stage a South African defending his WBO bantamweight title against a Filipino challenger, on a show labelled Midlands Mayhem. Incongruity aside, Zolani Tete vs John Riel Casimero - two-weight rulers, both, though the latter in lighter divisions - was an excellent pairing of world-class operators made possible by promoter Frank Warren.
At 5ft 9in, southpaw stylist Tete had five inches in height and eight in reach on orthodox presure-fighter Casimero. The latter could box a bit too while lanky Tete, the pre-fight favourite, is a very solid puncher.
Early on, the champion pumped out his long right jab while Casimero circled and occasionally darted inside. This proved ominous as in round three a short right as Casimero stepped in began Tete’s downfall. He was momentarily frozen and Casimero rapidly moved to the side and crashed in another right to drop the South African. From there, midway through the round, Tete, legs gone, was fighting only for survival. He went down a second time mainly due to a lack of balance, then, upon the resumption, a brutal left hook knocked his head through the ropes and the referee rightly intervened at 2.14 of the session.
Anthony Cacace got off to a promising start in his challenge for Sam Bowen’s British super-featherweight title, a superiority enhanced by a point taken from the champion in the fifth for use of the head. It was Bowen’s educated pressure against rangy Cacace’s skills and accuracy in a nip-and-tuck affair. The consensus was that the Ulsterman deserved it but he had come up just short against Martin J Ward in a previous shot at the same strap. He came through this time, however, 115-113 twice against a 115-112 for Ibstock’s Bowen to secure a split decision and the Lonsdale Belt. Given the Ward setback and that Cacace arrived in Birmingham a day late after esteemed coach Harry Hawkins lost his father, you can only be delighted for him.
It was heartening to see the vacant British super-middleweight title disputed by fighters with a combined record of 31-0-1 but in the ring Londoner Lerrone Richards frequently proved a step ahead of Lennox Clarke from Halesowen, Birmingham.
In the first six rounds, mobile southpaw Richards rarely allowed thickset banger Clarke to get set and when he did, the local tended to wait too long to unload. Richards would land one or two then spin off, while Clarke followed and prodded out a largely ineffective jab. Clarke appeared fit, was certainly game and dogged in his pursuit, but was summarily outmanoeuvred.
By the halfway point of their 12-rounder, the biggest dangers facing Richards seemed to be Clarke’s head and his own potential complacency. Lennox, aware of his likely deficit on the scorecards, came on strong in the second half however and probably won a few sessions as it became competitive, including the 11th with a big effort. Richards saw out the last however and took the contest - and the British championship - with surprisingly split scores of 115-113 Clarke against 117-112 and 116-113 for Lerrone.
British welterweight champion Chris Jenkins, who seems to get cut in most fights, retained his belt against mandatory challenger Liam Taylor via technical draw. Jenkins was slashed by a clash of heads and was ruled out in the fourth.
A battle of unbeatens at super-lightweight saw former amateur standout Sam Maxwell dominate the less experienced Connor Parker before overwhelming him for a seventh-round stoppage. It was set for 10.
Undefeated 6ft 1in super-welter Hamzah Sheeraz improved to 10-0 (6) after passing his first real test as a pro with flying colours. Only 20, Sheeraz outboxed compact local Ryan Kelly from the outside and mostly held his own at close quarters in an entertaining scrap. The former Midlands champion was ultimately dropped by his Ilford rival, via a beautiful counter right hand, in round six and stopped during the follow-up barrage.