There’s a Riot Going On
It was an ugly scene, but not substantially more ugly than when Golota fouled Riddick Bowe into submission in 1996…
“I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out.”—Rodney Dangerfield
There’s something about boxing that gets the juices flowing. There are riots in other sports, most notably in soccer, which is the king of kings when it comes to bloody aftermaths. But the sweet science brings out the beast in us all, whether we’re sitting ringside and chatting with friends rather than watching the fights, straining to watch the action from the rafters, or venting our machismo on Twitter.
I’ve lost track of all the fights I’ve attended where fist fights broke out in the stands. Sometimes the fights in the stands were more interesting than the fights in the ring, and sometimes not. But to see heads swiveling from the action in the squared circle to a rumble in the cheap seats is more norm than aberration.
It could be a male thing, a testosterone thing, and all that implies. But I can’t remember the last time there was a riot at Wimbledon or Augusta. My memory may be short and as shot full of holes and an overpriced chunk of imported Swiss cheese. Or maybe I’d rather spend my time watching grass grow than follow tennis or golf.
The latest riot to besmirch boxing’s reputation was the abomination that followed the junior flyweight bout between Johnriel Casimero and Luis Lazarte in Argentina last week.
Lazarte’s behavior during the bout—which included headbutts, rabbit punches, low blows, and biting—made Andrew Golota and Mike Tyson look like choirboys. He was stopped in round 10, and rather than accept his loss or point deductions like a man, he threatened to kill the referee, provoked the crowd, and sparked a riot.
It was an ugly scene, but not substantially more ugly than when the South Pole fouled Riddick Bowe into submission, and himself into disqualification, at Madison Square Garden in 1996. But the Argentine riot, of recent vintage, succeeded in reinforcing negative stereotypes about boxing, which the sport needs like a hole in the head.
The head of the Federación Argentina de Boxeo, Osvaldo Bisbal, was nothing if not defiant in the face of criticism.
“According to what I saw,” he said, “I can’t find anyone to punish. Who you want to punish? The boxer? The promoter? They complied with everything. The Once Unidos Stadium had nothing to do with it. There is no one to punish.
“We laugh at the sanctions of international sanctioning bodies. They have no authority to do so.”
To his credit, IBF president Daryl Peoples stepped into the fray, not in Argentina but in New Jersey, and banned Lazarte for life.
“As a result of Luis Lazarte threatening the life of referee Eddie Claudio while receiving a points deduction in the sixth round,” wrote Peoples, “Lazarte is banned from being involved in any capacity in any IBF-related fight that takes place in Argentina or around the world.
“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.”
The WBC also responded by releasing an official statement: “The WBC rejects what happened and demands immediate actions to the local authorities to punish those criminals that have stained boxing and the reputation of such an exemplary and honorable country like Argentina.”
Don’t cry for me, Argentina. It’s we who are crying for you.