Pros or Olympics, boxing remains strong source of PH sports pride

Dominic Menor, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 07 2021 02:38 PM | Updated as of Aug 07 2021 03:47 PM

From Pancho Villa in the early 1900s to superstar Manny Pacquiao, boxing has provided moments that have countlessly put the Philippines on the global map and swelled its sporting pride. 

Add the Tokyo Olympics to that storied, century-old history. 

Even as gold remained elusive, the Philippines achieved something it hadn’t in 19 previous Games — win multiple medals in a single Olympiad.

The country will fly home with 2 silver medals, thanks to Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, and a bronze courtesy of Eumir Marcial. 

Since it first sent boxers to Los Angeles 1932, the Filipinos have medaled 5 other times. 

Jose Luis Villanueva copped the bantamweight bronze that year before Anthony Villanueva one-upped his father with a featherweight silver in Tokyo 1964, the Philippines’ first runner-up finish at the Olympics. 

It took until Seoul 1988 before another Filipino boxer ended up in the top 3, thanks to light-flyweight Leopoldo Serantes’ bronze. 

In Barcelona 1992, Roel Velasco struck bronze in the same division, while brother Mansueto bagged silver in an infamous light-flyweight final in Atlanta 1996. 

After seeing boxing deliver medals in 3 straight Olympiads, the assumption was it would be standard fare for Filipino fighters stepping on the podium henceforth. 

But for 5 Olympic Games in a row, the Philippines couldn’t land a top-3 finish anymore; actually, none of its boxers between Sydney 2000 and Rio 2016 could advance past the Round of 16. 

In Rio, flyweight Rogen Ladon was dominated by Colombia’s Yurbejen Herney Martinez in a Round o 16 fight after Ladon drew an opening-round bye.

Teammate Charly Suarez, meanwhile, fell in his first lightweight bout against Britain’s Joseph Cordina. 

In London 2012, Mark Barriga showed promise in beating Italy’s Manuel Cappai but the light-flyweight boxer lost a close decision to Kazakhstan’s Birshan Zhakypov. 

In Beijing 2008, Harry Tañamor lost his opening light-flyweight bout to Manyo Plange of Ghana.

Tañamor had a better outing in Athens 2004, advancing past the Round of 32 by beating Sherali Dostiev of Tajikistan before losing to Korean Moo Won Hong.

Light-welterweight Romeo Brin lasted 2 fights, too, before exiting in Greece — a victory over Sweden’s Patrick Bogere followed up by a loss to Manus Boonjumnong of Thailand. 

The one-and-done Filipino boxers in Athens were middleweight Christopher Camat, who lost to Gaydarbek Gaydarbekov of Russian, and flyweight Violeto Payla, who couldn't survive Tulashboy Doniyorov of Uzbekistan. 

In Sydney, flyweight Arlan Lerio looked sharp in beating Uganda’s Jackson Asiku via referee-stopped contest, but he lost via countback to Poland’s Andrzej Rzany.

Light-flyweight Danilo Lerio, Arlan’s brother, gained an opening bye only to drop a similarly close bout to Spain’s Rafael Lozano.

Lightweight Larry Semillano lost via RSC to Ukrainian Andriy Kotelnyk in their opening bout, while Brin exited early, too, to Belarus’ Siarhei Bykosvki in a light-welterweight match. 

In Atlanta 1996, Brin’s Olympic debut, he didn’t get past his first bout, losing to Julio Gonzales Valladares of Cuba in a lightweight clash. 

But the frustration for Filipino fighters ended last week when Petecio bagged the silver in women’s featherweight, the first medal by a Filipina boxer in Olympic history. 

Marcial followed with a middleweight bronze, then Paalam with a silver, the fourth ever by a Philippine boxer after Villanueva, Velasco and Petecio. 

However, while the Philippines has regularly had world champion professionals — from Villa in the 1920s, Gabriel “Flash” Elorde in the 1960s, Rolando Navarrete in the 1980s, Luisito Espinosa in the 1990s, and Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire Jr. in the 2000s — it hasn’t produced an Olympic title so far. 

With the Filipino boxers’ showing in Tokyo the past 2 weeks, the hope is the momentum built in that time could lead to more podium finishes in the Olympics. 

Or better yet, ultimately, a gold medal down the road.

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