Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) president Ricky Vargas defended their bid to tap boxing icon Manny Pacquiao as one of the country’s potential competitors in the upcoming Olympics.
Recently, boxing’s international federation AIBA has revealed their plans to allow professional fighters to compete in the Olympics starting in this year’s event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The move has been met by negative ciriticisms from well-known personalities of prizefighting led by Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum.
“Boxing is a hurt sport. Kids can get hurt badly if they’re overmatched against seasoned professionals,” said Arum.
“Is it an accomplishment to beat 17 and 18-year-old Nigerians or Thais? Pacquiao is a world class fighter. I mean, to win a gold medal by beating that type of competition is to me no victory at all.”
Vargas however said Arum simply does not know how important it is for the country to win that first ever Olympic gold.
“Maybe he doesn’t understand how we Filipinos have really starved to win a medal in the Olympics. It will take Manny a lot of determination as a Filipino to bring that to us and I think he can,” said Vargas. “I’d love to win an Olympic gold. And if it will take a Manny Pacquiao to do that, that will be terrific for the country. Pasensya na lang si Bob Arum kung ayaw niya.”
Vargas believes money will not be an issue for Pacquiao who has consistently stated in each of his fight how his countrymen serve as an inspiration to him.
“It’s worth more than the $20 million that he earns. It’s real pride in the Olympics where your flag and your anthem is sung. It’s not about the belt. It’s a gold medal,” added Vargas “Whether there is competition or not, representing the country is different from being a professional and winning a belt.”
The Philippines has won two silver medals in past competitions courtesy of boxers Anthony Villanueva (1964 Tokyo Olympics) and Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco (1996 Atlanta Olympics).
So far, ABAP has sent two of its boxers to the Rio Games namely lightflyweight Rogen Ladon and lightweight Charly Suarez who both won silver medals during last month’s Olympic qualifier in China.
ABAP is targeting to add more Olympians through three upcoming qualifying events namely the AIBA Pro tournament in Bulgaria, the World Qualifying in Azerbaijan and the World Women’s Championship in Kazakhstan. (DENNIS PRICIPE)