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BETWEEN ROUNDS: THE BEST MATCHUPS POSTPONED BY COVID-19 – NAOYA INOUE V JOHNRIEL CASIMERO

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The boxing schedule entering the second quarter of 2020 was looking promising, stacked with good matchups, and the potential for some exciting rounds across all weight classes. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic we face side-lined any hope of seeing them play out in the near future. Here we take a look at one of the best matchups yet to happen.

Naoyo Inoue vs Johnriel Casimero.

Both of these men are phenomenal boxers, no doubt about that. At face value, it looks good simply given the amount of talent coming out of both corners, but it gets a lot more interesting when you look a bit deeper at the style and history of both fighters.

Naoya Inoue is known for his power. However, his style is far more nuanced than just being able to end a fight within the distance, there’s a big difference between a puncher like Deontay Wilder and a boxer like Naoya Inoue. For one his footwork is technically very sound, he’s very capable of switching stances, fighting from angles, fighting on the back foot, and generally has great balance.

Defensively Inoue is a very smart and elusive fighter, his footwork and balance paired with his boxing IQ allow him to quickly move out of range, or slip punches as he fires off his body shots. Given how horrifying his power punches and combos can be, it’s easy not to view Inoue as the strong defensive boxer he is. A boxer like Mayweather is known as a defensive master because he built his success on it, he’s no knockout artist, he’ll never make a top punchers list. Inoue’s defensive skill gets overlooked; the ugly stepsister overshadowed by her power punching sibling. Only in this situation, the ugly stepsister is still a supermodel.

So, if Inoue is a modern-day Mike Tyson fighting at Bantamweight who destroys livers, what do we make of his opponent Johnriel Casimero? Casimero is the heavy underdog going into this match, a strange thing to say about a reigning three-weight world champ.

Casimero, like Inoue, is a very powerful puncher. He’s got an impressive 20 KOs from 29 wins, with some impressive names in his body bag. He handed Zolani Tete his second-ever TKO loss. He gave Charlie Edwards, currently ranked the 5th best Flyweight in the world with Ring Magazine, his only loss, by TKO. So why is he such a heavy underdog?

Defense. To say Casimero doesn’t employ a classic boxing guard is an understatement, to say the least. Casimero fights mostly with his hands down, not just down below his chin which would be considered sloppy technique, he holds them down by his waist a lot of the time. This leaves his upper torso and head wide-open; it also lures his opponents into throwing punches and opening themselves up.

Casimero’s defence consists of reading his opponent, rolling to avoid punches, slipping, and feinting as he’s coming in and out, and knowing that if he does get caught, he’s got a very solid chin. Imagine a dialed down version of Naseem Hammed who throws big haymakers, and we’re about where Johnriel Casimero fits in stylistically.

Inoue is a technical, patient, fast, and powerful boxer who excels at exploiting openings. Casimero is an unorthodox, fast, and powerful boxer who also excels at exploiting openings. It’s a matchup that favors Inoue, but it’s still a dangerous one.

Both fighters will respect each other’s power, knowing a flash KO could come at any time. Imagine the opening rounds to start out slow, neither man wanting to get caught too early. Casimero could find openings in Inoue, he could land some of his haymakers. However, it’s far more likely that the longer the fight goes on, Inoue will find and exploit the multiple openings in Casimero and chop him down from the waist. Expect Inoue to slowly pick Casimero apart, exposing all his flaws. Also expect Casimero to go out swinging, hard.

Casimero likes to lure his opponents in with his low hands. He reads the punches, uses his superior speed and footwork to make them miss, so he can catch them with his big shots. This works for him, but it likely won’t work against the more patient and technical Inoue, a man who is arguably better at reading his opponents and is much less likely to miss. As the saying goes “styles make fights”, this will be very true when the bell rings for this fight.

To tide you over until the boxing schedule gets back on track you should watch some fights that showcase these two fighters at their best. Watch Inoue vs Donaire, Antonio Nieves, Kohei Kono. Watch Casimero vs Tete, Edwards, Keya Yamashita.