Casimero Crushes Zolani Tete in Three, Captures WBO Title

Johnriel Casimero has validated his road warrior reputation with a career-best win.

A minor upset occurred in the United Kingdom as the squat Filipino boxer scored a 3rd round stoppage of long-reigning Zolani Tete to win a bantamweight title Saturday evening in Birmingham, England.

Tete was floored by a crushing right hand forcing him to the canvas in forcing the stoppage at 2:14 of round three.

Casimero entered the fight having claimed wins in seven different countries, and was confident of yet another big road win on Saturday. The 30-year old was literally presented a tall order for this trip.

Tete—a 5’9” bantamweight from South Africa—was looking to make the sixth defense of the bantamweight title he claimed in a 7th round knockout of Jose Santos Gonzalez in their March 2016 clash in Liverpool, England. That win was his first after inking a promotional pact with Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions, which had him defending primarily in the U.K

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Having traveled the globe, Casimero was brimming with confidence heading into hostile territory, although his early body language didn’t suggest a boxer prepared to leave no doubt with the judges. The former 108- and 112-pound titlist spent much of the opening frame posing and waiting for openings. Tete took advantage of his opponent’s inactivity, working behind his jab which didn’t always land but was effective in controlling the slow pace of the fight. 

More of the same came in round two, with Tete landing his jab with a bit more regularity and Casimero remaining poised to a fault.

It turned out to be an investment for something big.

Tete was lulled into a false sense of security in round three, believing he was in control of the contest but leaving himself open just long enough for Casimero to explode. A compact right hook on the inside froze the defending titlist, causing him to the crumple to the canvas in producing the sudden ending.

“I believed because I worked so hard for this,” Casimero (29-4, 20KOs) said after becoming a three-division titlist. “We are strong and were ready.”

The knockout defeat ends a miserable year for Tete, who falls to 28-4 (21KOs). A 13-fight win streak comes to a close along with his title reign, with the 31-year old southpaw having not fought since a 12-round win over Mikhal Aloyan last October. That bout came at the start of the World Boxing Super Series, of which he was forced to bow out just prior to his semifinal match versus Nonito Donaire this past April. A fluke fight week injury forced Tete off of the show and out of the tournament, leaving him on the sidelines until he was fully healed, at which point he was ordered to defend against Casimero as his mandatory challenger.

Casimero was all too ready for the moment. The win went a long way towards his proudly representing eight-division champion and current promoter Manny Pacquiao’s MP Promotions. Casimero joins Pacquiao along with Donaire and Donnie Nietes as the only boxers ever from the Philippines to claim titles in three different weight divisions.

Saturday’s win wasn’t the end game, however.

“For next, we want Inoue,” insists Casimero of a targered showdown versus Japan’s Naoya Inoue, the unbeaten three-division and reigning unified bantamweight titlist. “My man Inoue. Monster, come to me and fight!”

It’s a fight that his handlers plan to work on immediately.

“The champ has won in seven different countries; the only one where he hasn’t won is Japan,” Sean Gibbons, president of MP (Manny Pacquiao) Promotions noted afterward. “That’s the fight The Senator wants, that’s the fight that we want.”

It’s a fight and another road trip that Casimero has certainly earned. 

The bout streamed live on ESPN+ in the United States and aired live on BT Sport locally in the U.K.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox