MANILA, Philippines -- John Riel Casimero has won world championships in three different weight divisions, but he knows he still has plenty of detractors who question his ability and achievements.
The Filipino boxer believes he can silence these critics -- his "haters" -- if he defeats Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue to become the unified bantamweight champion of the world.
"Ang daming mga basher talaga," Casimero said during an appearance on the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday. "'Yung mga Pinoy, doon kami kay Naoya. Naguguluhan ako sa kanila."
"'Yung laban ko, para sa bayan at para sa ating lahat. Binuhos ko ang lakas ng loob ko sa ensayo para manalo. Pero may mga haters pa rin," he added.
Casimero is on a six-fight winning streak, highlighted by an upset victory over South Africa's Zolani Tete in November 2019 that made him the WBO bantamweight champion. The Filipino boxer needed just three rounds to stop Tete and solidify his status as a top fighter in his weight class.
The victory also put him on a collision course with Japan's Inoue, who holds the WBA, IBF, and The Ring version of the bantamweight belts. The fighters have been in talks for a unification bout for most of the year, but plans were scrapped because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Casimero's camp at MP Promotions decided to pit him against Ghana's Duke Micah instead, and Casimero devastated him in three rounds to retain his title. Afterward, he made it clear that he was still targeting Inoue, who goes by the nickname "Monster."
"Habang tumatagal, lalo silang tumatakbo," Casimero said of Inoue, whom he has taken to calling the "Japanese turtle."
"Ang dream ko kasi, gusto ko ma-unify, mapunta sa akin ang apat na belt," he added. "Gusto ko unification talaga, 'yun talaga ang dream ko."
Unifying the belts and beating Inoue will give Casimero the last laugh over his haters, particularly his countrymen who back the Japanese star.
That his fellow Filipinos believe that he cannot beat Inoue is particularly grating to Casimero, who has fought title matches in front of hostile crowds before finally getting a shot at stardom in the United States.
"(Gusto ko) mapakita ko na talaga sa buong mundo, sa mga haters ko diyan, kung matalo ko ang 'Monster' na hinahangaan ninyo," said Casimero. "Pilipino kayo, pero hinahangaan niyo ay Japanese?"
"'Yung mga basher ko kasi diyan, naiinis ako eh," he admitted. "Kaya papatunayan ko sana sa kanila, 'pag matalo ang 'Monster' na 'yan, kukutungan ko sila isa-isa."
But Casimero also made it clear that his patience for Inoue has its limits. The Japanese fighter is looking to defend his title as well, with a bout against Australia's Jason Moloney scheduled for October 31.
Casimero and his camp warned that if Inoue won't come to the negotiating table again, they have plenty of other options.
"John Riel has a lot of options. He's the WBO champion," stated MP Promotions president Sean Gibbons. "There are fights with (Guillermo) Rigondeaux, Luis Nery."
"The Japanese turtle, if he comes out of his shell… he's been hiding for seven months," he added. "But Casimero is the world champion. We're not waiting for anyone."