John Riel Casimero expects a more enthusiastic reception for his return to one of the sport’s proudest venues.

The three-division and reigning WBO bantamweight titlist puts his belt on the line versus lineal junior featherweight champion and active bantamweight Guillermo Rigondeaux this Saturday at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. The bout—which headlines a Showtime-televised tripleheader—marks the second defense of the WBO title he claimed in a third-round knockout of Zolani Tete in November 2019.

It was an interim title fight at this very venue, however, that put the brash Filipino in line for the crown he defends this Saturday.

“This is the same place where I won the interim title in 2019, so it will be very special to me to go defend my world title and put on a great performance in that ring once again, “Casimero noted during a recent virtual press conference to discuss the bout.

There were few if any fans left in attendance by the time Casimero (30-4, 21KOs) entered the ring for his April 2019 interim title fight with Ricardo ‘Hindu’ Espinoza. Most of the venue had cleared out long after the preceding Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on Fox telecast, with Casimero’s fight appearing last on the running order, well off-TV and in the epitome of a walk-out bout.

It wasn’t quite the U.S. debut that Philippines’ Casimero had in mind, but he still made the most of the night. It turned out to be the fans’ loss, with the thoroughly entertaining slugfest ending with Casimero scoring a dramatic knockout in the twelfth and final round.  

Following the win over Tete came a return to the U.S., only to fight without fans once again—this time due to the pandemic. Casimero faced unbeaten contender Duke Micah, whom he stopped inside of three rounds as part of a Showtime Pay-Per-View event that took place behind closed doors at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Whatever sized crowd is on hand this weekend will provide more of a spark than was the case for either of Casimero’s previous stateside appearances. He enters as the favorite against Miami’s Rigondeaux (20-1, 13KOs), though is banking on a tough fight and one where he expects to hear the roar of the crowd—and to give them plenty of reason to cheer.

“I always want to go out and do my best for the fans,” notes Casimero. “There are going to be a lot of Filipinos there and I want more than anything to give them a great fight to watch.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox