IF TO a boxer, didn’t the hard-working, hard-trying, richly funded Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (Abap) that kept missing its Olympic target deserve a new coach and trainer?
Definitely, exclaimed Philippine Sports Commission Chair Richie Garcia, who proceeded to announce plans for a separate national tournament designed “to strengthen the national team.”
No way, cried Abap chief Ricky Vargas, in the process stressing they’ve never been remiss in their task. Vargas said the separate talent search by the government funding agency was unnecessary since they’ve been “aggressive in searching for the best boxers in the land.”
Abap’s program centered on regional competitions staged all over the country, Vargas countered.
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In announcing his plans, PSC chair Garcia had also hinted on the need for a foreign coach, a practice which the new Abap leadership has shunned.
Nothing has so far been heard of the PSC threat to stage a separate national boxing talent search.
Anyway, maybe it was plain coincidence, but not long after that brief exchange between Abap and the PSC, there arrived in the country a credentialed Irish boxing coach and trainer.
His name is Kevin Smith, 35.
Abap executive director Ed Picson said they met Smith during the London Olympics.
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Explained Picson: “He was head coach of the Nigerian boxing team in London. He expressed interest in Mark Barriga and offered his services as assistant to Roel Velasco in Mark’s corner, for free. He was very helpful and assisted Roel to the hilt.”
Picson said they learned about Smith’s impressive background and invited him to come to the Philippines as a consultant to Abap president Ricky Vargas.
“We decided to bring him in as a visiting consultant rather than as full-time coach and he readily agreed,” Picson said. “I made it clear that what I wanted was for him to observe and give his assessment of what we are doing in training.”
“He refused to be billeted in a hotel and instead stays at the same quarters as our boxers and coaches. He eats Pinoy food and is trying to learn our language,” Picson added.
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Great, Abap may have finally found the missing link.
Could we at least see him to offer some suggestions, ask a few questions?
“Sorry he will be in Baguio until his day of departure on Nov. 14,” the amiable Abap executive director said. “But we expect him back in February.”
Picson said the Irish expert had also visited Bacolod, Bago, Cagayan de Oro and got a glimpse of the traditional breeding ground of grassroots talents.
Fine, but maybe it’s not too late for our friend Ed to try to get an opinion on, say, why in a land of feared giant-killing prizefighters, the country was left with a Tom Thumb of a solitary campaigner in the last Olympics.
Also: Why new promising talents continue to come out from the same old breeding grounds of future international campaigners?
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It’s like this: The Abap is indeed involved in a serious hunt for talent all over the country, regularly smoking out aspirants for regional tests.
However, it may help if Mr. Smith is also made to assess the competence of the local scouts who are let loose to snoop around and decide who should be fielded in the regional talent tests.
Maybe these designated regional scouts bear proper diplomas or whatever.
However, based on what has been aptly observed by concerned authorities like the PSC chief, maybe it would help if the Irish expert could pay regional boxing centers a visit. The better to gather the scattered scouts and determine if they, too, badly need a coaching seminar.
The proposal by PSC chief Richie Garcia may have sounded foul and frantic. But it was hardly impertinent.