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Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco sounded yesterday as though the Philippines is already doomed even before it participates in the Rio Olympics this August.
Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Richie Garcia wasn’t as appalled and heartbroken as Cojuangco and remains fairly optimistic that boxing will deliver during the Aug. 5 to 21 sportsfest in Brazil.
Cojuangco was distraught that flyweight Ian Clark Bautista and welterweight Felix Eumir Marcial bowed to their opponents in the AIBA World Qualifying in Baku, Azerbaijan, in a close match.
Bautista lost a 29-28 decision to Kelvin Linares of Spain in the opener, while top seed Marcial, the 2011 world junior champion, was stunned by Germany’s Abbas Baraou, leaving the Philippines with just two fighters – light-fly Rogen Ladon and lightweight Charly Suarez – in Rio.
Both Cojuangco and Garcia acknowledged that boxing has the biggest chances of medaling in Rio but the fact that there’ll only be two, further diminished the possibility.
If there’s little consolation, the Philippines has two qualified bets in Rio.
In Beijing (2008), there was just one in light-fly Harry Tanamor, while there was also one in another light-fly, Mark Anthony Barriga, in London (2012).
But it doesn’t seem like the POC and PSC are satisfied with seeing just two.
“R3 million was spent for boxing when they went on a three-week training stint in the US,” said Cojuangco, noting that a 20-member delegation from the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) had stops in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas from February 24 until March 11.
Garcia was also disappointed by the early exit of Bautista and Marcial as they took part in a slugfest that catered to fighters who had trouble making the Olympic grade the last year or so.
The Baku event was staged to fill up the cast for the Rio Games as the marquee names had already booked berths in the past months via the 2015 world championships, continental championships and regional qualifying boxoff.
Ladon and Suarez arrived in the US last week to resume their buildup for Rio under Nonito Donaire Sr. and national coach Pat Gaspi.
Cojuangco feels that Donaire, who receives a monthly fee of $5,000 from the PSC as the ABAP’s handpicked foreign coach, was indeed right when he observed that the Filipino fighters were still lacking in key aspects of winning.
Donaire, whose work with the ABAP started only last month, noticed that the boxers lacked the staying power and don’t fight smart.
“Madali silang mapagod and they get hit a lot because once an opponent hits them, their reaction is for them to get back (at the opponent),” said Donaire in an interview conducted recently.
“Sa boksing kasi dapat ay may kaunting pagkaduwag ka. ‘Yun bang ayaw mo na ikaw ay tatamaan lagi,” added Donaire.
But ever the optimist, Garcia is not counting out the boxers.
“As they say the ball is round, anything can happen. Boxing has the track record (of winning medals),” said Garcia, whose agency gave in to almost every request for assistance from the ABAP.