MANILA, Philippines - An Argentine mob attacked Johnriel Casimero and his handlers, inflicting bruises on the Filipinos in an ugly riot that erupted after the Filipino fighter stopped hometown hero Luis Alberto Lazarte for the interim IBF light-flyweight crown in Mar Del Plata, Argentina Friday night (yesterday noon in Manila).
Casimero, promoter Sammy Gello-ani, trainer Pingping Tepora and an unidentified companion were nearly lynched, barely escaping the attack with the help of police officials.
The melee lasted for over 10 minutes. Video cameras caught cornermen of Lazarte joining irate Lazarte fans, who protested the referee’s TKO decision. Hours later, Gello-ani advised his family and friends back in Cebu that they’re already safe in their hotel.
Casimero knocked down the 40-year-old Lazarte twice in the ninth round and again in the 10th to win the fight.
As Casimero climbed the ropes to celebrate the win, the Argentines turned unruly, throwing chairs and debris to the helpless Filipinos.
Officials failed to prevent the fans from storming the ring, and the Filipinos literally had to fend for their lives inside the Club Once Unidos in Mar Del Plata, the very hometown of the beaten former IBF light flyweight world champion.
“The three of us suffered bruises,” said Gello-ani as quoted by a philboxing.com report. “But I can take it, we can take it. We are celebrating Johnriel’s victory. This is a birthday gift that he will offer to the entire Filipino nation.”
Casimero is turning 22 tomorrow.
“My friend, Oswaldo Bravo, had to pull Casimero from the mob and hide him under the ring,” Gello-ani recalled their ordeal. “Bottles and chairs were flying. Lazarte is a member of the truckers’ union and the rioters were his friends. I was kicked, Pingping (Tepora) was punched. But we are safe now and we are guarded by the local police.”
The ring was littered with chairs as the commotion subsided.
The referee didn’t have the chance to raise the hand of Casimero for his 15th win in 17 pro fights. Lazarte dropped to 49-11-2 (18 KOs).
Casimero obviously relied on youth in stopping Lazarte to win the title vacated by the injured Ulises Solis.
The two warriors fought on even terms until Casimero rattled Lazarte with a powerful shot to the chin at the end of the ninth. Lazarte was clearly in trouble from there and barely had the stability to stand in the 10th.
Prior to the stoppage, Lazarte was slapped with a one-point deduction for biting Casimero in the neck in the sixth. Casimero also lost points for fouls in the fourth and eighth rounds.
The Ormoc, Leyte native once held the interim WBO light flyweight crown by defeating Cesar Canchila of Colombia.
He lost the championship in his first defense, losing by split decision to Ramon Garcia Hirales in July 3, 2010.
He got his first shot at a world title when he challenged South African Moruti Mthalane for the IBF flyweight title in March last year. He was, however, stopped in five rounds. -- With report from Emmanuel Villaruel, Freeman News Service - By Nelson Beltran