Sunday, March 26, 2023  |


Johnriel Casimero resumes underdog role in challenge to Amnat Ruenroeng


MANILA, Philippines – Johnriel Casimero will be fighting for the first time in Thailand this weekend, but in many ways he’s in familiar territory.

The 25-year-old Casimero is used to fighting in enemy territory, and his challenge of IBF flyweight titleholder Amnat Ruenroeng this Saturday at the Hua Mark Indoor Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand will mark the seventh different country he has fought in since turning professional in 2007.

Casimero (21-2, 13 knockouts), of Ormoc City, Leyte, Philippines, achieved world title success with as hard as any young fighter could, having been chased from the ring during a 2012 riot after he knocked out Luis Lazarte in Argentina to win the interim IBF junior flyweight title (which was upgraded to full status later that year).

He lost the belt on the scales two years later after weighing in nearly 6 pounds over the 108-pound limit for his May 2014 defense against Mauricio Fuentes.

Now, Casimero tries to win a title belt in his second weight class, once again as the underdog.

“I miss being a champion,” Casimero tells

Standing in Casimero’s way is the 35-year-old Ruenroeng (15-0, 5 KOs), who has had as much success in the last year and a half as anyone in the sport, defeating unbeaten fighters Kazuto Ioka and Zou Shiming, plus tough contenders Rocky Fuentes and McWilliams Arroyo.

Ruenroeng is currently rated THE RING’s No. 2-rated flyweight behind champion Roman Gonzalez and WBA/WBO unified titleholder Juan Francisco Estrada – while Casimero is rated No. 10 at the weight.

In Ruenroeng’s corner are a pair of Filipino brothers – head trainer Frankie Jaro and assistant trainer Aljoe Jaro. Aljoe Jaro, who runs the Jaro Boxing Gym out of Rizal, Philippines, made his name as a manager/trainer, guiding Florante Condes and Sonny Boy Jaro to world title wins.

Aljoe Jaro has deflected any criticism that goes along with working a corner opposite one of his countrymen.

This is only a job for me. I will be happy whichever boxer will be the winner,” said Jaro. “Casimero says he will knock out Amnat. But I think if he does not knock him out, he’ll be behind the skill of Amnat.

We have Plan A, Plan B, Plan C. This fight will look like a small version of Manny Pacquiao vs Floyd Mayweather.”

To get up for the challenge, Casimero went out to Las Vegas in February, rooming with former WBO junior bantamweight titleholder Marvin Sonsona. Casimero trained at the Vegas gyms of Floyd Mayweather Jr and Roy Jones Jr, and spent three weeks at Shane Mosley’s gym in Big Bear, Calif.

More times than not, Filipino boxers come into Thailand and leave with a loss on their record. Casimero’s banking on his combination of youth and experience, plus international training to carry him to victory against one of the most skillful boxers of the lower weight divisions.

“I was able to spar with a lot of talented people there who weren’t Pinoys (Filipinos),” Casimero says. “I feel I’ll be a champion again.”

Cuello returns with title shot in sight

Denver Cuello – THE RING’s No. 9-rated strawweight – returns to the ring on the undercard in a 10-round fight against Indonesia’s Boy Tanto (9-16, 1 KO).

Should Cuello (35-5-6, 23 KOs) of Cabatuan, Iloilo, Philippines get past Tanto, manager/trainer Aljoe Jaro says Cuello has been assured of a shot at WBC strawweight titleholder Wanheng Menayothin before the end of the year.

Cuello has been largely inactive since his 2013 majority decision loss to Xiong Zhao Zhong for that same belt, but remains the No. 1 contender with the WBC. Cuello entered the Xiong fight with a torn right rotator cuff and has undergone surgery to repair the damage. He has won two fights since then against nondescript opposition.

Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.