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PH pugs’ luck of the draw

From the looks of it, the Philippine contingent in the ongoing Asian/Oceanian Olympic qualifying tournament in China should bag more than one slot to the Rio Olympic Games.

Looking at the tournament’s draw sheet, at least four of the six-man boxing team have brackets where most of their divisions’ toughest challengers are bunched in the preliminary rounds while the Filipino campaigners have lighter prelims assignments.

By today, three of four boxers would have easily qualified to the semifinals with the fourth one, flyweight Nesthy Petecio, needing to go through the proverbial eye of the needle as she was scheduled to face five-time world champion Mary Kom of India as of press time last night.

According to Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) Executive Director Ed Picson, only three of the four medalists of every divison of the China joust will get automatic tickets to Rio.

This means the gold and silver medalists are automatic Olympians while the third qualifier will be determined through a box off between the two losing semifinalists who are automatic bronze medalists of the meet.

Lightweight Charly Suarez was scheduled to fight Deeraj Rangi of India with the winner assured of a bronze medal and a box off.

21-year-old Jun Shan of China and 20-year old Harry Garside of Australia are fighting for a semifinal seat with the winner facing the victor between Suarez and Rangi.

Rangi should pose not much problem for Suarez as the young Indian boxer’s international experience pales in comparison with that of the Filipino campaigner

Also last night, lightflyweight Rogen Ladon was to face lightly regarded Al-Kaabi Hasan Ali Shakir of Iraq, making the Filipino almost a cinch to becoming a semifinalist.

Ladon’s potential semis opponent though is not one to scoff at as Devendro Singh of India is a quarterfinalists during the 2012 London Games and has since improved by taking home a pair of silver medals in the 2013 ASBC championships and the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Singh was set to battle Wei Tu Po of Chinese-Taipei in the quarterfinals.

Bantamweight Mario Fernandez had Mohammad Al-wadi of Jordan as quarterfinals foe and like Ladon, is expected to overcome his quarterfinal assignment.

Little is known about Al-wadi except that he won the gold in the flyweight class of the 2012 Pan Arab Games held in Doha, Qatar and a silver in last February’s Chemistry Cup in Germany.

Fernandez’ likely semis rival is 2012 Olympian Chatchai Butdee of Thailand who won the gold in last year’s Asian Championship in Bangkok.

Welterweight and tournament top seed Eumir Felix Marcial, who drew a bye then stopped prelims foe Istafanos Kori of Australia in the third round, was to meet Iran’s Sajjad Kazemzadehposhtiri in a seemingly trouble-free quarterfinal match.

Should Marcial, ranked sixth in the world, get past Kazemzadehposhtiri, he will be pitted against either World Youth campaigner Lee Dong Jin of Korea or World University champion Shakhram Giyasov of Uzbekistan in the semis.

Meantime the only damper in the Philippine schedule was Roldan Boncales’ loss to Oizhas Sattibayev of Kazakhstan (#4 seed) in the flyweight division. It was a close, exciting fight between two speedy fighters, and the judges found the Kazakh as the winner by scores of 29-28 twice and 30-27. Boncales had won his first assignment against a Vietnamese Friday.

Picson reiterated to the boxers ABAP president Ricky Vargas’ pledge that if they qualify they will not only get incentives but will be given more extensive training and support in the run up to the Olympics. (DENNIS PRINCIPE)