Midway through the sixth round of last Friday’s IBF junior flyweight title fight in Buenos Aires, Argentina betweenn Filipino Johnriel Casimero and hometown favorite Luis Lazarte, referee Eddie Claudio, stopped the bout and penalized Lazarte for consistantly hitting Casimero behind the head.
At that point, while only inches away from Claudio’s face, Lazarte removed his mouthpiece, stared directly into the the official’s eyes and threatened his life.
“He took out his mouthpiece and said to Eddie Claudio, ‘Do you want to get out of here alive?’” said IBF Public Relations Director Jeanette Salazar.
“We stand behind our officials, and there is just really no excuse for that. When something like that is done to them, then the right thing to do is to take action.”
As a result of his infraction in what was an eventual 10th-round knockout loss to Casimero (16-2, 10 knockouts). which most likely contributed to a post-fight riot, the 40-year-old Lazarte (49-11-2, 18 KOs) has been banned for life from participating in any IBF-sanctioned events.
“As a result of Luiz Lazarte threatening the life of referee Eddie Claudio while receiving a points deduction in the sixth round, Lazarte is banned from being involved in any capacity in any IBF related fight that takes place in Argentina or around the world,” wrote IBF President Daryl Peoples, in a letter to Osvaldo Bisbal, president of the Argentine Boxing Federation.
“I believe that I do not have to express to you that Lazarte’s threat to Claudio, which can be clearly heard in the telecast, is completely unacceptable, should not be taken lightly and merits punishment. Behavior of this nature by a fighter is not and will not be tolerated by the IBF.”
During another point in the fight, Lazarte can be seen biting Casimero on the right shoulder at least once, including an occasion in slow motion in the sixth round. A ringside commentator compares Lazarte’s infraction to that by Mike Tyson on Evander Holyfield’s ear.
“Luis Lazarte has been banned permanently. He could appeal, but I don’t know how successful he would be in his appeal,” said Salazar. “But as it stands for now, he is banned for good. He can not participate in any form in any IBF-related fights.”
It appears that Lazarte’s actions helped to incite the post-fight riot during which Casimero suffered concussions, and his team member, Sean Gibbons, two broken ribs. Shortly after Claudio stepped in to stop the bout, fans began throwing bottles and chairs into the ring.
In his letter, Peoples condemned “the deplorable acts of violence that transpired after the Lazarte-Casimero bout,” adding, “This type of violence has no place in a boxing match, or any sporting event for that matter, as it completely goes against the grain of what competition is about.”
Casimero can be seen in this video, gloves still on, hiding from attackers amid other members of Team Casimero, and later being chased around the ring as crowd members climbed onto the ring apron and tossed more obstacles at the terrified fighter and his cornermen.
During the fracas, a man can be observed chasing and throwing punches at camp members and Casimero, who was hit with a chair as well as kicked, according to Gibbons in one report.
Claudio spirited Casimero away and actually hid him beneath the ring, even as Gibbons was hit by a chair and stomped by fans before he rolled out of the ring and was escorted to safety by security guards.
Gibbons told RingTV.com that he “was sucker-punched by one of Lazarte’s team” while he “was covering Johnriel from things being thrown and this coward came from my blind side and hit me as hard as he could in the rib cage, breaking two ribs.”
Peoples all but demanded that the Casimero-Lazarte bout be further investigated by Bisbal.
“I would like to know what steps have been taken with the local police department to bring those individuals that entered the ring and assaulted Mr. Casimero and his camp to justice,” wrote Peoples.
“There are a number of individuals that can likely be identified in the video recording of the fight and who should be investitaged through the proper legal channels. I expect that you will do what you can to further inform me on this matter.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org