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Aussies in boxers’ corner

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RIO DE JANEIRO – The head coach of the Australian boxing team in the Rio Olympics will help man the Philippine corner when the competition begins Aug. 6 at the Riocenter Convention Center.

Kevin Smith, who comes from Liverpool, will assist Filipino coach Nolito “Boy” Velasco when Filipino boxers Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez see action on opening day.

Or until the Filipino boxers remain in the medal hunt.

Velasco is the lone Filipino coach who was accredited to the Rio Games which fires off on Aug. 5 at the Maracana Stadium.

The Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines lobbied hard for an additional coach to assist Velasco but was denied in their appeal.

Velasco needs a helping hand.

Smith, who served as consultant with the Philippine boxing team a couple of years ago, has agreed to assist Velasco out in the Philippine corner.

If needed, another Australian coach, Don Abnett, will be on hand to lend assistance.

Velasco, in turn, will also reinforce the Australian corner, and serve as cutman for the Aussie squad fielding two entries in the men’s division and one in the women’s side.

“Tulungan lang,” said Velasco.

The ABAP, headed by Ricky Vargas, has planned to send an assistant coach, Romeo Brin, here to Rio at the last minute.

But the absence of credentials and an assurance that Brin will have a place to stay in once he gets to Rio forced the former boxer to cancel his trip.

Smith, who became head coach of the Australian team nearly three years ago, said he has no problem working with the team he used to help.

“I’m very familiar with the boxers. I know them well. They are great boxers with great chances,” said Smith, referring to Ladon, a light-flyweight, and Suarez, a lightweight.

The two Filipino boxers are first-time Olympians.

Smith said in the last World Olympic Qualifiers in Baku, Azerbaijan last June, he was the only Aussie coach around, and Velasco came to assist him in the corner.

With only two qualified boxers, the Philippine team was allowed only one coach.

Velasco has found the help he needs.

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