Dela Peña, Pangga win gold medals in Asian juniors boxing championships
PUERTO PRINCESA — Two finalists, two gold medalists for the Philippines.
Kenneth dela Peña and John Vincent Pangga subdued their respective opponents Monday as the host country exceeded expectations in the 2017 ASBC Asian Juniors Boxing Championships at Puerto Princesa City Coliseum here.
A prized find from General Santos City, Dela Pena beat Kazakhstan’s Akilbek Mukhtarov, 4-1, in the pinweight (44-46kg) category while Pangga, pride of Cagayan de Oro City, bested Thailand’s Sarawut Sukthet by the same score in the light flyweight (50kg) class.
Endowed with fast hands and agile on his feet, the 16-year-old dela Peña landed a left-right-left combination midway of the second round that rocked the Kazakh for a standing eight count.
Sensing that he was way behind, Mykhtarov launched an all-out assault in the third, pinning Dela Pena on the ropes. Dela Peña, who’s only on his first year as a boxer, however, weathered the attack with a left to the body followed by a right to the face to earn the wide decision.
At the dugout, dela Peña admitted he got tired in the third round, but said he was determined to win for his family, which includes his twin brother and an older brother who have also taken up the sport, and bring glory to his country.
“Even during clinches, I was talking, saying that this gold is mine and I won’t let it slip away,” dela Peña, last year’s Batang Pinoy silver medalist, said in Filipino.
Familiar with his foe, the 15-year-old decorated Pangga said he had to box smartly and threw everything in his arsenal to beat Sukthet, who had sparred with him during the national team’s training in Thailand last month.
“He (Sukthet) caught me with a solid body shot that time and it hurt so I had to be careful,” said Pangga, a four-time Batang Pinoy and 2016 Palarong Pambansa champion. “I just followed my coach’s (Ronald Chavez) instructions to measure him up first, in Filipino.”
Always beaten to the punch by Pangga in their first encounter, Sukthet changed tactics and turned counter puncher.
Eventually Pangga was able to pierce his defenses by unleashing rapid combinations to earn the nod of four judges with only the judge from United Arab Emirates going for Sukhtet.
Both Dela Pena and Pangga are aiming to make it to the Olympics someday.
Having given the Philippines its first gold medals in the event confined to 15 and 16-year olds, dela Peña and Pangga will most likely represent the country in this year’s World Juniors, the date and venue of which have yet to be announced by the AIBA (International Boxing Association).
Ricky Vargas, president of the organizing Abap (Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines) was impressed with the Young Turks’ performances.
“The kids fought with a lot of heart. They have a lot of potential to make it to the Olympics,” said Vargas. “I was surprised that we won two golds.”
Also present were Abap secretary general Pato Gregorio and executive director Ed Picson.
The Abap fielded only four bets for the tournament that drew entries from 18 nations, including world powerhouse Kazakhstan, with light flyweight Criz Russo Laurente and lightweight Norlan Petecio failing to advance to the medal round.
Other early final bouts saw Kazakhstan’s Makhmud Sabirkhan snare the light flyweight and light bantamweight Biibars Zheksen snare the gold at the expense of Japanese Toshiya Yano and Uzbek Asadkhuja Muydinkhujaev, respectively.
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