(UPDATED) Johnriel Casimero claimed a 12th round stoppage of Ricardo Espinoza on Saturday in Carson, California (Sunday in Manila) to win the interim WBO bantamweight championship.
The 30-year-old Casimero was fighting on US soil for the first time, and was making his debut at the bantamweight division as well.
He landed solid punches and slowed down his bigger opponent throughout the match, eventually registering a knockdown in the sixth round.
Casimero scored another knockdown to begin the 12th, after forcing Espinoza to his knees with a barrage of punches. The referee finally called the fight 44 seconds into the final round, after Casimero swooped in to finish off the Mexican.
Casimero improved to 27-4 with the win. He has previously won titles in light-flyweight and flyweight before moving up to the weight class.
"Salamat ako sa Panginoon na binigay niya sa akin, para maging three-time world champion," said Casimero.
It was an impressive win for Casimero, who had to battle not just his Mexican opponent but also circumstances beyond his control.
"Quadro Alas" arrived in the United States only about a week before the fight, and did not have enough time to acclimatize. Moreover, his longtime trainer, Jhun Agrabio, was denied a US visa. Fortunately, former champ turned trainer Rodel Mayol stepped in.
The WBO ordered the Casimero-Espinoza bout to be for the interim title last Tuesday. Zolani Teti holds the full version of the belt, and is in line to face Nonito Donaire in the Super Series next week. -- Report from Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News
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