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Opening blitz for PH boxers

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THANYABURI, Thailand – All six boxers fielded by the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) in the King’s Cup Boxing Tournament here scored sensational wins on opening day Tuesday, with none more spectacular than Joel Bacho’s 3-1 decision over World Series of Boxing (WSB) and AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) veteran Arisnoidys Despaigne of powerhouse Cuba.

Despaigne, silver medalist in the 2013 World Championships, was highly favored over Bacho, who until recently has been fighting under the shadow of his erstwhile co-welterweight (69 kilos) Eumir Felix Marcial, a 2015 SEA Games gold medalist.

Marcial, fighting for the first time as a middleweight (75 kilos), also had a smashing technical knockout (TKO) victory over Japan’s Ren Umemura. The referee stopped the contest in the final canto after a series of left straights from Marcial had the Japanese wobbly, glassy-eyed and bleeding profusely from the nose.

Bacho, from Mandaluyong, was not intimidated by the Cuban’s sterling credentials and surprised Despaigne by taking the fight to him, using excellent ring movement and snappy combinations.

Philippine head coach Pat Gaspi said: “Joel used his head. Cuban coach Enrique Steiner came over to congratulate us and concede that they were unprepared for a much-improved Bacho. I think Joel’s time has come”.

Steiner spent a couple of years in the Philippines as ABAP coaching consultant until 2009.

Another TKO victory was 21 year-old James Palicte’s bout against Patrick McLaughlin of Australia. A couple of right straights to the face forced the referee to summon the ring physician twice as the Aussie spewed blood from the nose and mouth. The lady doctor mercifully halted the bout towards the end of the second round.

Scoring unanimous 5-0 decisions were Carlo Paalam over Australian Alex Winwood, Ian Clark Bautista against Juhyeon Chloe of Korea and Mario Fernandez versus India’s Hussam Uddin Mohammed.

ABAP President Ricky Vargas, who was intently monitoring the event over the phone with ABAP Secretary-General Ed Picson, was jubilant but cautious.

“This is an excellent start, a perfect 6-0. But you must always be on your toes, there are bigger tasks ahead. I will constantly be praying for our boxers’ safety and success”, said the PLDT executive in a text message to Picson. “I would like to thank Chairman Butch Ramirez of the Philippine Sports Commission for his all-out support for the team.”

There are 18 countries and 3 teams in the tournament (host Thailand fielded 3 teams), with 107 boxers spread out over 10 weight categories. Favored teams aside from Cuba are Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and host Thailand.

The tourney ends on Saturday, April 8.