IBF champ in elite cast

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JOHNRIEL Casimero, who became a world champion by knocking out Luis Lazarte of Argentina last year  then  survived an assault from an angry, hometown mob afterwards, gets fitting recognition on March 25 as one of five major recipients of the 13th Gabriel “Flash” Elorde Memorial Awards at Hotel Sofitel.

The 22-year-old Casimero will be honored along with the Philippines’ finest professional boxers as the reigning IBF light flyweight champion.

He won the IBF interim crown when he scored a stunning technical knockout over the  rugged Lazarte in Buenos Aires February last year. But the bout ended in an ugly manner after he and his corner found themselves the target of an infuriated crowd which hurled chairs and debris on the ring.

The boxer himself had to be rescued by policemen as he hid under the ring. That caused an uproar in the boxing world and forced the Philippines to file a diplomatic protest. Lazarte was later banned by the IBF for inciting the crowd which led to the riot.

Casimero, the youngest among this year’s batch of honorees, became the regular champion when Ulises Solis could not defend his title because of an injury.

Proving he’s no flash in the pan, Casimero went on to defend the IBF crown by outpointing Pedro Guevarra of Mexico by split decision in Sinaloa last August. He holds a 17-2-0 record with 10 knockouts.

Other champs to be similarly honored are WBO super bantamweight champ Nonito Donaire Jr., WBO and WBA flyweight titleholder Brian Viloria, WBO light flyweight ruler Donnie Nietes and WBC flyweight king Sonny Boy Jaro.  The award is in memory of boxing legend Elorde.

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