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Still champion: John Riel Casimero wins by split decision over Guillermo Rigondeaux

Rigondeaux won the dance contest, but Casimero won the fight.

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Casimero wins photo by Sean Michael Ham
Casimero wins photo by Sean Michael Ham

WBO Bantamweight World Champion John Riel Casimero defeated two-division champion Guillermo Rigondeaux to retain his title Saturday night live on SHOWTIME headlining a Premier Boxing Champions event from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.

 

A three-division world champion, Casimero (31-4, 21 KOs) made his second successful title defense at 118-pounds, earning a career-best victory over the longtime 122-pound champion Rigondeaux (20-2, 13 KOs), who moved down to bantamweight in 2020.

 

"I’m excited to get the win,” said Casimero. “Rigondeaux is a good boxer and two-time Olympic gold medalist. I was worried, because he said he wouldn’t run, but he ran the whole time.”

 

The bout started with an eventful first round, in which it appeared for a moment that a Casimero left hook to the back of Rigondeaux’s head would lead to a knockdown, but referee Jerry Cantu ruled the moment a slip. During the exchange, Casimero threw several punches while Rigondeaux was on one knee, earning a warning from the referee.

 

From that point on, Rigondeaux remained steadfast to a defensive strategy that saw Casimero forced to chase his opponent around the ring. Meanwhile, Casimero stayed dedicated to pushing forward, looking to slow Rigondeaux down with body shots to set up power shots to the head.

 

"My expectations were for a knockout,” said Casimero. “Me and all my fans wanted that. I did my best to knock him out, but he was just running and not fighting.”

 

Rigondeaux was content countering his charging opponent, doing a majority of his damage with variations of his dangerous left hand. In a bout with numerous close rounds, Casimero ended the fight with a narrow 47 to 44 edge in punches landed, including a 41-28 tally in power punches.

 

Those power punches and sustained aggression proved to be enough for Casimero to hold onto his 118-pound title in the eyes of the judges, as scores of 117-111 and 116-112 overruled one judge’s 115-113 card in favor of Rigondeaux. While Rigondeaux disputed the decision, Casimero looked forward to potential unification clashes with WBC champion Nonito Donaire and WBA and IBF titleholder Naoya Inoue.

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