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BAKU, Azerbaijan – Two young Filipino boxers embark on their final push for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics as the AIBA World Olympic Qualifying Event reeled off Thursday at the Sarhadchi Stadium here.
Flyweight Ian Clark Bautista of Binalbagan, Negros Occidental and welterweight Eumir Felix Marcial from Zamboanga City take on separate opponents Friday and Saturday.
Bautista, 21, 2015 SEA Games gold medalist and Sri Lanka Red Lion Tournament champion, leads off Friday as he tests the mettle of Spanish National Champion Jose Kevin de la Nieve Linares, a Beijing and London Olympian.
Marcial, on the other hand, is the top seed in the 69 kg welterweight division. He thus enters the tournament in its second round Saturday against Abbas Baraou of Germany, who knocked out New Zealand’s Joshua Nyika in the second round in the opener.
The 20 year-old Zamboanga City lad entered the consciousness of boxing fans when he won the World Junior Championships in 2011 at the tender age of 15. He was then a flyweight, 17 kilos (37.4 lbs) lighter than his present fighting weight.
He also annexed the 2015 SEA Games gold, the 2015 Asian championships silver and the Asian/Oceanian Olympic qualifying bronze medal.
Team leader and ABAP executive director Ed Picson remained upbeat about the Philippine campaign here saying “we’ve given these boys ample exposure, training, motivation and support. They’re determined to get to the Olympics and bow to leave everything in the ring.”
ABAP president Ricky Vargas was in constant long-distance communication with Picson during the draw and cheered the boxers on:”Let’s accomplish our mission in Baku and go on to Rio” he told Bautista and Marcial.
Coaches here are Nolito “Boy” Velasco and 3-time Olympian Romeo Brin.
The two other boxers who earlier qualified for the 2016 Olympiad- light flyweight Rogen Ladon and lightweight Charly Suarez flew to Las Vegas, Nevada last Wednesday to continue training with ABAP consultant Nonito Donaire Sr. They were accompanied by head coach Pat Gaspi.