‘I am the strongest’
Cutting weight has always been a major problem for reigning WBO bantamweight champion Johnriel Casimero. So in between fights, when he’s back in his hometown of Ormoc, Leyte, he depends on his own “squad” to keep him in shape.
His posse is similar to the ubiquitous pack that keeps his idol Manny Pacquiao company whenever he is jogging on the streets of Los Angeles training for a fight.
But Casimero’s entourage is composed of street urchins in their early teens. “There are about 10 of them. You can see that they enjoy working out with me because often I give them some boxing lessons,” he said in Filipino.
“When I tell them to be at the house in the morning, they’d be there even before I wake up,” Casimero said. “And then we would jog all morning. In the afternoon we play basketball.”
The 30-year-old Casimero (29-4-0 with 20 knockouts) is set to fly to Miami on Thursday to start his unification bid against undefeated Japanese slugger Naoya Inoue.
Both possessing highly exciting boxing styles, Casimero and Inoue will feature in an April 25 fight at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Sean Gibbons, Manny Pacquiao Promotions president, dubbed the bout as “the clash of the best bantamweights in the world.”
The WBA and IBF champ Inoue (19-0-0 with 16 KOs) is fresh from a brutal unanimous decision win over another Filipino, Nonito Donaire, last November.
But Casimero has won five straight fights via stoppages. “I feel that I’m the strongest in the bantamweight decision,”
he said during Wednesday’s send-off at the Amelie Hotel in Manila.
A three-division champ, Casimero is hoping to sweep all four major belts at 118 pounds, including the WBC version held by Nordine Oubaali of France.
“I will just have to finish off Inoue and then I plan to win all four belts,” he said casually. He said he’s open to a fight with four-time champ Donaire in the future, although if he wins in April, that fight won’t be along his career trajectory.
Gibbons said they are in talks with several TV networks to make sure the fight is beamed live on free TV.
“The fight of this magnitude deserves to be watched by all Filipinos,” said Gibbons, who is also the top Pacquiao adviser.
Now Casimero’s top priority is to get into fighting shape. “Right now I still have a lot of weight to lose,” he said. He will undergo fitness and conditioning regimen under controversial coach Memo Heredia in Florida.
“Miami has similar weather like the Philippines so we choose to train there,” Casimero said. “In Las Vegas at this time it’s too cold.”
Out there, he won’t have a bunch of friends that would tag along with him. But Casimero said running alone doesn’t bother him anyway.
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