Ladon loses his focus, falls at dream’s edge
RIO DE JANEIRO—On the eve of the big fight, there was never any doubt in Rogen Ladon’s mind that he would win a medal at the Rio Olympics here.
The cash incentives were just too tempting, he said, and he wanted to bring something back to his family in Bago City, Negros Occidental, when the Games were over.
Ladon was, essentially, extremely motivated—until he fought Colombia’s Yurberjen Herney Martinez on Monday morning and felt the thud as his hopes crashed.
As reality clashed with his dreams, Ladon lost his focus and paid dearly for it.
Overwhelmed by the reception he received from the boisterous gallery, the 22-year-old Ladon fought stiffly and bowed to Martinez, 3-0, in their light flyweight encounter at the Riocentro boxing pavillion.
“The sheer magnitude of the fight overwhelmed him,” his coach Nolito Velasco said in Filipino. “He was teary-eyed while we were entering the ring. It’s like he couldn’t believe that he’s in the Olympics.
Velasco, elder brother of he country’s last boxing medalist, Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco (Atlanta 1996), doused Ladon with water before the start of the first round so he would regain attention.
“I did that because I saw a different person in him right there,” Velasco said. “I told him to focus because this was his big fight.”
Ladon’s defeat wrapped up the disappointing show by the two boxers whom pundits back home had initially thought were clear medal hopes in the Games.
Lightweight pug Charly Suarez was the first to bow out, absorbing a stunning split-decision loss to Great Britain’s reigning European champion Joseph Cordino last Saturday.
Ladon made it close against Martinez only in the first of the three-round fight, 29-28, in Olympic Park’s Riocentro Boxing Pavilion.
Attacking Ladon with precise shots to the head and body, Martinez also took the next two rounds on scores of 30-27 and 29-28.
“My hamstring went taut at the start of the second round, I couldn’t move,” he said in Filipino. “I’m disappointed. I really wanted to win in this Olympics.”
But Velasco dismissed Ladon’s excuse as an alibi.
“He did not fight like the Ladon I used to know,” the coach said. “I told him that even in his dream, the Colombian could not beat him.”
Ladon was given a free ride to the second round by virtue of his No. 5 ranking in the 49-kilogram class.
He needed just two wins to assure himself of at least a silver medal.
Instead he ran into a busy fighter fresh off a morale-boosting 3-0 win over the host country’s Patrick Lourenco in the first round on Saturday.
“If I win the gold, this will be my prize,” Ladon said on the eve of his Olympic debut. “I’ve been thinking about it. If you don’t put it in your heart you’ll be nothing.
“You have to think always that you can win the gold. The (cash) incentive is really big.”
Only 22 fighters made it to the Olympics in Ladon’s weight division, thus the first-round bye.
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