Harry Tañamor, a flop in the Athens and Beijing Olympics, redeemed himself on Sunday by nailing the light flyweight gold medal in the Boxing World Cup at the Megasport in Moscow, Russia.
The 31-year-old Tañamor manhandled Cuban favorite Yampier Hernandez, 15-7, in the finals to join the roster of winners in the inaugural edition of the event organized by International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) for the world?s top eight fighters in their respective divisions.
A longtime member of the national team from the Philippine Army, Tañamor counterpunched his way to victory, keeping the surging Cuban at bay with his longer reach and smooth footwork.
The victory was worth $10,000 for the fighter from the southern city of Zamboanga, whose biggest achievement until Sunday was a silver medal during the 2007 AIBA World Championships in Chicago.
Tañamor, however, didn?t get a chance to avenge his Chicago loss to China?s Zou Zhiming. Zou, who won the gold medal in the Beijing Olympics in August, did not compete in Moscow.
?I felt vindicated by Harry?s win. It proved that the decision to send him to the Olympics wasn?t a wrong decision, after all. He wasn?t fortunate to win in the Olympics but his victory in the World Cup is proof that he can compete with the best,? said Manny Lopez, former president of the Amateur Boxers? Association of the Philippines (ABAP).
Tañamor won only his opening bout in the 2004 Athens Olympics and was roundly criticized for failing to survive his debut in the Beijing Summer Games against the unheralded Mangyo Plange of Ghana.
Because of the limited number of entries, the Filipino bet needed just three victories to win the gold in Moscow. He beat Tajikistan?s Murodjon Rasulov, 8-4, in the quarterfinals before downing Polish Lukasz Masczczyk in the semifinals, 12-4.
Hernandez, who won $5,000 as silver medalist, beat Kazakh Birzhan Zhakypov in the semis, 13-3.
Tañamor was accompanied by coach Ronald Chavez, who saw action in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Their trip was supported by Pacific Heights and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
Lopez, now vice president of the ABAP and incoming first vice president of the Philippine Olympic Committee, said, ?He [Tañamor] told me that the gold was a gift as I leave the presidency of the ABAP.?
Tough and prestigious
Butch Ramirez, PSC chairman and also president of ABAP Mindanao, hailed Tañamor?s victory.
?I?m not just happy, but proud of his achievement,? he said. ?Though this is not the Olympics, the World Cup is a prestigious and tough competition and I would like to congratulate Manny [Lopez].?
?Tañamor makes the country proud,? Ramirez added. ?The lesson here is that while we cannot win them all, we must stay united as we go for the gold in the 2012 London Games.?
Cuba with 5 golds
The Philippines and Armenia were the only teams outside of Russia and Cuba that produced a winner in the Moscow competition, which started as a team affair using the Davis Cup format in 2005 and 2006.
Cuba, which finished without a gold medal in the Beijing Olympics, won the overall title with five gold medals, courtesy of bantamweight Yankiel Alarcon Leon, featherweight Idel Torriente, welterweight Sotolongo Iglesias, light-heavyweight Osmai Duarte Acosta and super heavyweight Robert Alfonso.
Russia captured three gold medals through flyweight Misha Aloyan, lightweight Albert Selimov and welterweight Artur Eterbief.
Middleweight Andranik Hakobyan gave Armenia its gold by nipping Venezuelan Alfonso Blanco, 10-9, in the finals.
Pride of Zamboanga
Dubbed by the respected Sports Illustrated in its Olympic preview as a medal favorite, the pride of Zamboanga City was heavily criticized for his lackadaisical showing in the Beijing Games.
Lacking intensity, Tañamor broke the hearts of Filipino sports fans when he bowed to his little known Ghananian opponent in the preliminaries, 6-3.
The loss mirrored what happened during the 2004 Athens Olympics when Tañamor failed to enter the medal round after winning his first bout but losing in the next round.
Tañamor?s Olympic debacle is partly to be blamed for the decision of Lopez to relinquish the Abap presidency last November.
Lopez, son of former Manila mayor Mel Lopez, decided to hand over the presidency to a group identified with sports philanthropist and telecommunications magnate Manuel Pangilinan.
?I will not be a source of disunity,? said Lopez, who will assume the post of ABAP vice president next year. Dennis Eroa; with editing by INQUIRER.net