SAN DIEGO, Feb 11, 2012 – Outraged Argentine boxing fans erupted in violence Friday night, rioting to express their anger at the loss of former world champion and hometown favorite Luis Lazarte to young Filipino boxer Johnriel Casimero at the packed Once Unidos auditorium in Mar de Plata, a seaside resort just south of Buenos Aires.
The melee was broadcast live on Argentine television channel C5N and is now posted to You Tube. Video of the incident is quickly becoming a social media phenomenon.
The fight itself was messy. At age 41, Lazarte is past his prime, and the 21-year-old up and coming Casimero (who turns 22 Monday) dominated the fight, sending Lazarte to the canvas twice in the ninth round. Lazarte committed numerous fouls including biting Casimero in the neck in the sixth round, and kicking Casimero at one point.
Shortly after American referee Eddie Claudio stopped the light-flyweight fight in the 10th round, the angry crowd turned into a mob, and began throwing plastic water bottles into the ring, followed by more than a dozen of the auditorium’s plastic chairs.
The video shows Casimero, his manager Sammy ‘Don King” Gello-ani and trainer Pingping Teropa scrambling to get out their boxer out of harm’s way and out of the ring. Casimero appears a little confused at first, then alarmed by the fracas. Light flyweights fight at 108 pounds, but even if they were heavyweights they couldn’t face down an enraged mob, especially not after going ten hard rounds.
As referee Claudio, the fighters and their teams scrambled for cover, several fans jumped into the ring. An individual a green jacket with white lettering on the back begins chasing Casimero and his corner men, attempting to land his own punches. He was eventually secured by police and arrested.
In an interview with Philboxing.com, Gello-ani was quoted as saying “Some of them (the fans) 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.”
Gello-ani said he “lost sight of Casimero.” Referee Claudio took the fighter down the ring where he remained hidden until the police cleared the auditorium and the riot was over. Police then escorted Team Casimero to their dressing room and stood guard.
Gello-ani’s wife Cora told Filipino news website The Freeman that her husband, Casimero and Tepora needed police escorts out of the arena to make it safely back to their hotel, and sustained only minor injuries. Gello-ani reported he was hit on the back with a chair; Sean Gibbon of Top Rank and trainer Tepora both were punched by fans.
Gello-ani told Philboxing.com that Lazarte came to Casimero’s dressing room and apologized to him for what happened. He said the apology was “politely accepted” and that he gave his uniform jacket to the Argentinian 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. Argentinian promoters have also apologized to the Casimero team and to IBF officials for the melee.
Casimero improved his record to 16-2 with 10 KOs, while Lazarte fell to 49-11-2 (18 KOs).
Thankfully no one was killed or seriously injured, unlike the soccer mayhem that killed 79 people in Port Said, Egypt on February 1. But sadly it seems rioting after sporting events is becoming more common around the world, and not just in connection with soccer. Basketball, ice hockey, and now boxing have all seen their share of post-event riots.
Sporting events are hotbeds of tribalism and testosterone, and when both of them meet stressful circumstances, it is a recipe for disaster. Some psychiatrists theorize that it is a natural result of the attempt of individual members to “bond” with a tribe; i.e. fans of a particular team or athlete, particularly when in close quarters with individual members of another “tribe” – the fans of the opposing team or athlete. Modern men have few opportunities to express their aggression and tribalistic instincts regularly as did their ancient ancestors, so pent-up instincts erupt in venues where sanctioned aggression and violence is in play.
If so, it’s somewhat surprising that it hasn’t happened in boxing more often. The closest we’ve come lately in the U.S. was the trash-talking episode between Floyd Mayweather and HBO announcer Larry Merchant. How fitting that Merchant gets a mention, as today (February 11) is his 81st birthday.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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