Fri, Feb 17, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Philippines protests against attack on boxer in Argentina

AP, MANILA

The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest to the Argentine government after a Philippine fighter was attacked in the ring by fans unhappy he had won a title bout.

John Riel Casimero and members of his team were kicked and assaulted when fans hurled chairs and stormed the ring following his 10th-round knockout of local fighter Luis Alberto Lazarte in the IBF junior flyweight championship in Mar Del Plata.

Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said on Wednesday that his country’s embassy filed a protest with the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is awaiting an explanation.

He said that after the riot, police escorted Casimero and his team to their hotel and provided protection for them. Lazarte later visited to personally apologize.

“It’s OK for me to fight in Argentina, but I won’t ever step in Mar Del Plata ever again,” Casimero told reporters after he was given a hero’s welcome in his home province of Cebu in the central Philippines.

The 22-year-old said it was hard for him to celebrate because he was mourning his brother, who died of heart disease a day before Casimero left for Argentina.

“I was hurting, but I just kept it to myself,” Casimero said. “There’s no turning back for me. I said to myself that this is my chance to win the title for my countrymen and for my family, and I have to make the most out of it.”

Casimero was not seriously hurt and hid under the ring while the rioting fans were escorted out of the arena, said Aquil Tamano, commissioner of the Philippines’ Games and Amusement Board.

He told ABS-CBN TV that he had also written to the Argentine boxing federation and IBF, recommending that those responsible for the violence be held accountable.

Casimero’s promoter, Sammy Gelloani, said most of the violent fans were members of a truckers’ union from Buenos Aires.

“I’ve been in boxing for a long time and the incident was just a normal thing. It’s only that they could not accept defeat,” Gello-ani said.

“Argentina is a beautiful place. We are still willing to fight there, but it depends on who is the opponent and where it would be held,” he added.

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