Despite postponement, ABAP still optimistic of Olympic glory for boxers

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 30 2020 02:27 PM

Filipina boxer Irish Magno in action. File photo.

MANILA, Philippines -- Filipino boxers "lost steam" with the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, but the country's organizing body for the sport is still hopeful that they will make an impact in next year's Games.

Two Filipinos -- Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno -- are already assured of tickets to the Tokyo Olympics, with at least four more boxers hoping to qualify. 

"When I looked at our boxers, we were ready eh," said Ricky Vargas, president of the Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines (ABAP), during Tuesday's Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum.

"We got two of them, and they were at their peak. They were really training for the Olympics," he added. "Naka-schedule na 'yan -- the training has been scheduled. When you look at those who will compete in Paris, naka-schedule na rin ang training nila to peak when they go to Paris."

Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam, Ian Clark Bautista, and Rogen Ladon were all hoping to compete in the world Olympic qualifying tournament in Paris, France for another chance at a Tokyo berth. The tournament was originally scheduled in May, but it was scrapped due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The boxers are still training regularly and are in contact with their coaches, but online training sessions are simply "not the same," Vargas pointed out.

ABAP President Ricky Vargas. File photo. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News.

"Training online is not the same. So maraming gagawin. We lost steam," he admitted.

"We need to be able to go back to the gym and really work and spar, and box with other boxers, not only here, but overseas as well," he added.

Unfortunately for Filipino boxers, ABAP has yet to receive the green light from the Inter-Agency Task Force and the Department of Health as to when physical training sessions can resume. Contact sports are still barred in areas under the general community quarantine. 

Vargas also revealed that they have gotten an invitation to a boxing tournament in Thailand later this year, but he is uncertain if the Filipino pugs can compete given the travel restrictions. 

"It's all estimate," he said of their plans. "Kailan ba magkakaroon ng Olympics? The latest is August."

"Thinking positively, we'd like to be able to prepare our boxers before October for the qualification," he added. "Sayang. Kung natuloy lang 'to, we were more than ready then than we are now, I would like to think."

Despite the postponement of the qualifiers and the Tokyo Olympics itself, Vargas is staying hopeful that the Filipino boxers will secure their berths in the Games -- and even possibly bring home medals.

"Marami tayong hopefuls na pwede pang mag-qualify," Vargas stressed. "I'm in touch with Nesthy, and she's very eager to go for the qualification and to redeem herself. Carlo Paalam, Rogen Ladon, Ian Clark Bautista -- may chance pa 'yan to qualify for the Olympics."

"Hopefully, we can qualify for five (boxers) din. This is going to be a bountiful crop for us in ABAP," he said. "They're all working as much as they can with their coaches."

Boxing has produced five Olympic medals for the Philippines, but the most recent came all the way back in the 1996 Atlanta Games when Mansueto "Onyok" Velasco settled for a silver medal in the men's light flyweight division. 

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