Bantamweight has had a strong 2019 and 2020 looks ready to follow suit. Naoya Inoue’s World Boxing Super Series win, the emergence of Nordine Oubaali, and the imminent, interesting late career arrival of current lineal Jr. featherweight champion Guillermo Rogindeuax have created some fascinating options for the division.
Among those options will be unification for the winner of this Saturday affair (ESPN+, 2 PM EST) between a pair of men who have won major titles in two divisions apiece. Casimero has won four in a row and seven of his last eight. Tete, returning from a shoulder injury that forced him out of the WBSS before a semi-final against Nonito Donaire, has won twelve straight.
It could easily be a longer streak with both Tete’s losses since a stoppage to Moruti Mthalane in 2010 coming via narrow decision on the road. Both men have said they want a crack at unified titlist Naoya Inoue.
Who will be a step closer when the smoke clears?
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title: WBO bantamweight (2017-Present, 3 Defenses)
Previous Titles: IBF Jr. bantamweight (2014-15, 1 Defense)
Weight: 116 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Mdantsane, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Record: 28-3, 21 KO, 1 KOBY
Rankings: #1 (Ring), #4 (TBRB, ESPN, BoxRec), #7 (Boxing Monthly)
Record in Title Fights: 5-1, 2 KO, 1 KOBY (6-1, 2 KO, 1 KOBY including interim title fights)
Last Five Opponents: 114-9-2 (.920)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Moruti Mthalane TKO by 5; Juan Alberto Rosas L12; Juan Carlos Sanchez KO10; Paul Butler TKO8; Omar Narvaez UD12
John Riel Casimero
Previous Titles: IBF Jr. Flyweight (2012-14, 3 Defenses); IBF Flyweight (2016-17, 1 Defense)
Weight: 117 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Ormoc City, Leyte, Philippines
Record: 28-4, 19 KO, 1 KOBY
Press Rankings: #5 (Boxing Monthly), #6 (TBRB, BoxRec), #7 (ESPN), #8 (Ring)
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-2, 3 KO, 1 KOBY (9-3, 6 KO, 1 KOBY including interim title fights)
Last Five Opponents: 71-37 (.657)
Current/Former World Champions Faced: Ramon Garcia L12; Moruti Mthalane TKO by 5; Luis Lazarte TKO10; Pedro Guevara SD12; Amnat Ruenroeng L12, KO4; Charlie Edwards TKO10
The Case for Tete: Tete has the edge in both height and reach in this fight, standing a listed five inches taller at 5’9 and with a 72” wingspan to Casimero’s 64”. Tete doesn’t always fight tall, sometimes staying inside and crouching down but he appears most comfortable working off his jab and keeping opponents at range. The southpaw has a nice sneaky right hook that lands with real zip, including an 11 second knockout of Siboniso Gonya three fights ago. If Tete can establish his jab and counter Casimero while the Filipino is winding up, the chance is there for him to control the geography of the fight and pile up points. Tete appears on film to be significantly quicker in recent vintage and he lets his hands go more. He’ll have to be wary of Casimero’s sudden bursts of offense and a wild uppercut that lands at odd angles.
The Case for Casimero: Film of Casimero is fairly consistent. He comes forward and, when he thinks he has an opening, he throws hard. In between, he can sometimes paw with his offense and that wouldn’t be a good idea against a Tete who can exploit that with snapping jabs. Casimero can be too focused on hard shots occasionally. The punch output in his last few fights has been spotty. It cost him against an unheralded Jonas Sultan who avoided getting caught and basically just outworked him. Casimero throws hard to the body and knows how to find holes for the hook in close. Casimero won’t outbox Tete so he’s going to have to force chances to outfight him. His best chance is to wear at the body and hope to catch Tete blind. Casimero has been willing to get a little dirty in the past and may want to draw on some of the experience he gained against Lazarte and Ruenroeng. He’s going to need every trick to force Tete out of the South African’s comfort zone.
The Pick: The difference in speed based on the form each man has had in their last four or five fights is huge. Casimero has never been fleet fisted but there is a noticeable drop off in quickness from his title run at flyweight to now. Casimero’s measured pace looks like a bad recipe against the longer, faster finesse of Tete. It’s amplified by knowing Tete can hurt a man coming in. On paper, this looks like a good fight and the toughest defense of Tete’s reign so far. In reality, the physical dimensions of the fight and Tete’s advantage in reflexes and defense could make this a rout. The pick is Tete in decisive fashion.
Rold Picks 2019: 66-16
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com