Philippines, 24 May 2018
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Newly crowned IBF light flyweight champion Johnriel Casimero, his promoter Sammy Gello-ani and the members of Team Casimero have one simple message after the 22 year old Filipino won the title but was viciously attacked by thugs masquerading as fans and even members of badly beaten former champion Luis Lazarte – “Don’t cry for me Argentina!”

An emotional but joyful Gello-ani told us in the end it was all worthwhile because Casimero “ did his best to get the title back to Philippines the hard way and this is his best gift to our countrymen. Besides, the title victory was dedicated to his younger brother who died of a heart problem just one day before Johnriel left Cebu for the fight in Argentina. It’s Casimero’s birthday on February 13 and there could be no better gift to share with his family and his countrymen.”

Gello-ani in an overseas telephone conversation with the Manila Standard said the announced gameplan of working to the body and wearing down the former champion who is 40 years old worked, but as the bout progressed points were deducted for head-butting from both Lazarte and Casimero.

Gello-ani said that “a first round slip by Casimero was ruled a knockdown but it did not bother Casimero.”

He said American referee Eddie Claudio was able to control the fight most of the way.

Gello-ani told us “Casimero dropped Lazarte with a right cross in the 9th round. Lazarte stood up before the count of 8 and continued fighting but Casimero caught him again in the dying seconds of the round sending the Argentine to the canvas. Referee Claudio started the count and Lazarte stood up but was saved by the bell.”

In the 10th round Casimero dropped Lazarte again but the game former world champion beat the count one more time before Casimero caught him on the ropes and pounced on the hapless Lazarte with a series of punches and as he was going down again referee Claudio stopped the fight.

While both fighters were waiting for the announcement Gello-ani said “all of a sudden debris including cups and water bottles were thrown into the ring along with plastic chairs.”

Gello-ani and the other members of Casimero’s team pulled the new champion who was celebrating on top of the ropes in one corner and took him to the center of the ring since people from the camp of Lazarte who were mostly members of a Truckers group were all around the ring apron.

He said “some of them climbed into the ring and started hitting and kicking members of Casimero’s team. We decided to go nearer the police officers around the ring but people kept throwing anything even hitting the police injuring some of them.”

It was at this point that Gello-ani said he “lost sight of Casimero.” He discovered later that “referee Claudio took the fighter down the ring where one of our friends Osvaldo Prado hid him under the ring until the riot was over. Prado told me not to worry because Casimero was safe under the ring.”

Police escorted Team Casimero to their dressing room and stood guard. Referee Claudio was taken to hospital with an injury and although the members of Team Casimero had bruises they did not agree to go to the hospital but instead remained in their hotel where they were protected.

Gello-ani reported that Sean Gibbon of Top Rank was likewise hurt when he received a low blow along with Casimero’s trainer Christopher "Pingping" Tepora while the well-known promoter himself was hit on the back with a chair.

An hour after the tumultuous events Gello-ani told us that Lazarte arrived in Casimero’s dressing room and apologized to him for what happened. He said “We politely accepted his apology and I even give my Red uniform jacket to Lazarte for his eldest son Diego who had asked me during the weigh in for a souvenir.”

The police escorted Casimero and his team to the hotel and stood guard until morning to make sure that they were safe. The promoter Mr. Osvaldo Rivero arrived at the hotel and also apologized to the Filipino team as well as the IBF officials who are billeted in the same Primacy Hotel.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Ronnie Nathanielsz.

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