Don’t curse the dark, change boxing’s lightbulbBy Percy D. Della
Philippine Daily Inquirer
SACRAMENTO, California—Question: How many Filipino boxing buffs does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Answer: One to install the new bulb and legions more to figure out what to do with the old one till the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.
Since coming home empty-handed from the final 2012 Olympics men’s boxing qualifiers in Astana, Kazakhstan, last week, the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (Abap) has to duck for cover. Arrows—as Doris Day sang in the movie musical Calamity Jane—are flying “thicker than porcupine quills.”
The new and improved Abap, with tons of dough from a sports godfather, is still without the silver bullet to turn raw talent into legit Olympic hopefuls. Months of training and overseas exposure for its boxers have yielded almost zilch.
Mark Anthony Barriga, a qualifier via a technical quirk at that—is likely to be our only boxing entry to the London Games in July. His eerily lonesome campaign—like Harry Tañamor’s in Beijing four years ago —is a sea change from previous Olympics when boxing was a sports touchtone for the nation.
Razor-sharp blades take time to forge. There is a gestation period, between five and seven years to bring a boxer to Olympic caliber. But the Abap was deluded into thinking that the fighters’ Olympic quest could be fast-tracked, says my fellow columnist and boxing writer Recah Trinidad.
Former Gov. Manny Piñol, a long-time champion of grassroots development, is befuddled by the boxing brass who counted the chickens before they were hatched.
With the entry of business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan and Smart Communications into amateur boxing, the guv, in a chat with Recah, said the marketing and the “praise” releases came first. Meantime, the “products”—the boxers themselves—were inadequate to do justice to the promotions.
A fatal mistake, says Piñol, is Abap’s failure to mount “organized” and yearly provincial, regional or even national boxing tournaments aimed at discovering new talents other than the readily available boxers in the pool.
“The current Abap leadership has been in office for only a little over three years,” executive director Ed Picson told me by e-mail. “That’s no excuse, it is a fact. And we had to cull some of the boxers in the pool, leaving us with a pretty shallow bench.”
Countering Piñol’s views, Picson pointed to the program of the new Abap: To build around discovering, honing and nurturing fresh talent.
“And the grassroots development program is alive and vibrant,” he said. “We brought our regional (area) tournaments all over the country: Ormoc, Panabo, Bacolod, Mandaue, Tayabas, Cagayan de Oro, Bohol, Mandaluyong, Quezon City, etc. in search of the proverbial raw talents and we have discovered quite a few.”
Abap’s efforts do not end there. Ed notes that there are talents who cannot come to the tournaments. “That is why we are sending out scouts to the countryside to flush out these diamonds in the rough, boys and girls.”
And then there is the “problem of professional raiding.”
“The lure of the pro ranks… is a real concern,” Picson says. “We had one exciting prospect last year we brought to a couple of minor tournaments abroad, acquitted himself quite well but jumped ship just last month without even a goodbye.”
Concludes Picson: “We are also continuing our program of bringing in foreign coaches as consultants for transfer of technology, upgrade and evaluation of our national coaches…
“Abap had its fair share of success with what it had to work with and is proud of that. But as the cliché goes, you’re only as good as your last win.”
More from this Column:
- Azkals make Fifa work harder
- Volleyball’s near death experience
- Abap still on a ‘learning curve’
- Boxing for pesos
- Sportsmen in politics