Irish mentor key to PH 'breakthru'?

By Abac Cordero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Oct 31 2012 12:59 PM | Updated as of Oct 31 2012 11:04 PM

MANILA, Philippines - While there is no plan to hire a foreign coach, the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP) yesterday said it always helps to have “someone from outside looking in.

In the past, the ABAP has relied on foreign coaches, but under the leadership of Ricky Vargas a good mixture of Pinoy coaches and foreign consultants can get the job done.

Ed Picson, executive director of ABAP, is hoping that the recent entry of Irishman Kevin Smith as team consultant can carry the national team past the “learning curb.”

Smith, according to Picson, knows where he stands.

“He’s not here to teach us. He’s here to observe, analyze and assess our training methods. Toward the end he will submit initial recommendations and suggestions to us,” said Picson.

“In fact he himself told me the Philippines does not need a foreign coach and that he’s impressed with the knowledge and skills of our coaches,” said Picson of Smith.

The 48-year-old Irishman has a good background in philosophy, science, engineering and education on top of his experience as a boxing coach for the last 20 years.

In the London Olympics last August, he offered his services to the Philippine team and helped Roel Velasco man the corner of Mark Anthony Barriga.

Smith, who once coached the national teams from Scotland, Nigeria and Tanzania, and is now based in Liverpool, said he has seen enough since coming in more than two weeks ago.

Smith, who will be here for another two weeks, believes in the talent of the Filipino boxer as well as the coaches.

“It’s obvious that they have the natural talent, good reflexes. There’s a lot of talent for the international seen. I’ve seen a lot of promising boxers in the seniors and juniors squad.

“There is talent in the grassroots level. And the style of training is very good though it may need some small variations and nothing much technical, some new styles and methods in training,” he said.

Since Vargas took over as ABAP chief almost four years ago, the coaches had gone “all-Filipino” and while the Olympic gold has remained elusive, victories came in the SEA Games, Asian Games and the World Championships.

The presence of the Irishman on the sidelines, especially when the team starts preparing for the 2013 SEA Games, is being welcomed with open arms.

“We figured we could make good use of his knowledge. Now he’s here to tell us what we’ve been missing. Then he will figure out which areas he can help,” said Picson.

Velasco, who came to the forum with fellow coach Ronald Chavez, welcomed the arrival of Smith, who was in Bago City last week for the PLDT-ABAP Visayas Area tournament.

“He’s a big help. And he wants to observe first before he makes any suggestion. I think he’s strict when it comes to technique and the delivery of the punches, and on defense,” said Velasco.

“We expect good changes. Now we can learn more of the European style,” added the bronze medalist in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

“He’s not here to change or overhaul the program. Only if he sees that we’re lacking in some areas will he put in his thoughts,” said Chavez.