MANILA, Philippines – Five young Filipino boxers exceeded expectations when they crushed separate opponents to bag five gold medals in the 2nd Taipei City Cup International Boxing Championships last weekend.
The team, sponsored by PLDT and handled by the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP), were all rookies who were sent to Taiwan to gain experience in international competition but pulled off a surprise when five of the Filipino boxers entered the finals.
Eddie Alinea of PhilBoxing reported that Maricris Igam (48-kg), Irish Magno (51-kg), Rogen Landon (49-kg), Mario Fernandez (56-kg) and Joel Bacho (64-kg) all won in convincing fashion to bring home five gold medals.
"These kids came in here with no high expectations,"said Karina Picson, the PLDT-ABAP team manager, in a PhilBoxing interview. "The coaching staff did a marvelous job but our boxers showed discipline, determination and guts."
"They fought hard for the wins and they have the scars to prove it. It was not an easy as it probably sounds," Picson added.
Igam crushed Nguyen Thi Luong of Vietnam, 25-10, to win the gold and bag the Best Female Boxer of the tournament award as well.
Magno, meanwhile, scored a referee stoppage when she bloodied Taipei's Pin Meng-Chieh in the fourth round.
Ladon beat Japan's Kenshiro Teraji 19-10 in the light flyweight division despite being docked two points in the third round for ducking, while Fernandez overcame a height disadvantage against Taiwan's Lin Yu-Che for a 19-9 victory.
Meanwhile, Bacho pulled off an upset against Syuichiro Yoshino of Japan for a 15-8 victory.
ABAP president Ricky Vargas told PhilBoxing that the Filipino pugs' victory was a validation of sorts for their organization.
"We have a vibrant grassroots development prgoram that has identified the best potentials from the countryside. These boys and girls give us hope for the future," Vargas said.
The other members of the team were Janice Vallares, who won bronze in the 60-kg division, as well as Darwin Tondahan, who fought at the lightweight division.
The tournament featured 12 countries, with Japan, Vietnam and host country Taiwan counted as the favorites.
Vargas revealed in a separate PhilBoxing report that all 12 countries who participated "fielded their second team," but noted that ABAP put together a team of young boxers who would most benefit from exposure to international competition.
"We're obviously very happy with the performance of our young first-timers. They are products of our grassroots development program... We will continue to nurture them and their dreams," Vargas said.