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One win away from Rio

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Four Filipino boxers are just a win away from punching their ticket to the Rio Olympics Games.

Team captain Charly Suarez led the charge for four of the five pugilists who fought in the quarterfinals of the ongoing Asian-Oceanian Olympic qualifying event Tuesday in Qian’An, China.

The 27-year-old Suarez decisioned Dheeraj of India via unanimous scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 to enter the semifinals and assure himself of a bronze medal in the lightweight category.

The Davao Del Norte native Suarez will next face hometown bet Jun Shan of China who escaped with a split verdict over Australian prospect Harry Garside.

Suarez is expected to be highly favored in his match against Shan, noting that the Filipino boxer is one of the most experienced boxers in the meet in terms of international exposure.

Stylewise, Shan, despite his decent footwork, seems tailor-made for Suarez as the Chinese has a penchant for slugging it out with his foe once tagged by a solid blow.

“I know he has the hometown crowd but I have a fight plan that I think will turn things around for me,” said Suarez in the vernacular.

Meantime, number one seed Rogen Ladon displayed speed and accuracy to thwart Iraq’s Al-Kaabi in a similar unanimous decision win and will next face shifty Devendro Singh Laisham of India in their lightflyweight encounter.

Welterweight Eumir Felix Marcial, also ranked number one here, had no problem disposing of Sajjad Kazemzadehposhtiri from Iran as the judges had the strapping young Zamboangueno winning hands down, 30-27 (twice) and 29-28.

The country’s first and only World Junior boxing champion, Marcial will go up against Shakram Giyasov of Uzbekistan in the semis.

Joining the three in the final four is Mario Fernandez who barged into the semifinals with a 30-27, 30-27 & 29-28 decision over Mohammad Alwadi of Jordan. A back-to-back SEA Games winner, Fernandez will have his hands full against 2012 Olympian Chatchai Bundee of Thailand as his semis foe.

Lady boxer Nesthy Petecio was the only Filipino casualty Tuesday night when she bowed to five-time world champion Maty Kom of India.

According to Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) Executive Director Ed Picson, only three of the four medalists 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.

“A bronze medal is fine. But our boxers pledge to go hard to get that slot for Rio. There are no two ways about it,” said Picson.

The semifinals of this event will be held today at the state-of-the-art Tangshan Sports Centre in this northern city 2.5 hours drive from Beijing. (DENNIS PRINCIPE)