Pinoy pugs impress Irish coach

By Abac Cordero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Oct 28 2012 03:55 PM | Updated as of Oct 28 2012 11:55 PM

BAGO CITY, Philippines – He was always at ringside, with his eyes glued on the action, and kept exchanging notes with Filipino coaches.

In the end, Irish boxing coach Kevin Smith said he liked what he saw during the 2012 PLDT-ABAP Visayas Area boxing tournament at the Bago City Coliseum.

“I saw some good talents from yesterday and the other day,” he said of regional grassroots tournament that drew the region’s finest amateur boxers.

Smith, who assisted coach Roel Velasco in Mark Anthony Barriga’s corner during the London Olympics last August, is here for a four-week consultation job for the national boxing team.

At the close of the tournament Friday, he aired high hopes for the young and promising boxers, aged 15-18 years, who slugged it out here over the past week.

“There were some excellent boxers who stood out for me,” said Smith, dropping the names of pinweight Jossa Santisteban, and bantamweights Jeffrey Bagacay and James Palicte.

“And I saw them perform at such a young age and at a higher level. The female boxer, Santisteban, had a little bit of the X-factor. Then there’s James Palicte and Jeffrey Bagacay.

“They were excellent this afternoon. I’d like to see them go the higher level,” said Smith, who will prepare an initial assessment of the boxers and present it to the ABAP leadership.

“He’s here to observe, analyze and make some recommendations,” said ABAP executive director Ed Picson of the foreign coach who will be in the country for two more weeks.

Ricky Vargas, president of ABAP, was also at ringside along with ABAP vice president Manny Lopez, sec-gen Pato Gregorio and Virgil Villavicencio, sports media director for the MVP Group.

National coaches Ronald Chavez and Velasco, the bronze medalist during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, spent most of the time with the 48-year-old Irish.

Smith said it’s very important for ABAP to hold grassroots tournaments like this because it’s the only way to discover potential members of the national team.

“The journey to a world-class level has to start here at the grassroots. You got to support this type of tournaments to find the talent and hopefully develop them and take them all the way to as far as they can go,” he said.

“At the moment this is just an initial visit to come and look at the training program. If ABAP gives me the opportunity to come back I’d be delighted to,” said Smith.