Boxing’s our best Olympic medal hope, and boy does it look dim now
What was that again? All you need to hit the jackpot is one ticket?
Well that may work in lottery, even against million-to-one odds. But in sports? Even with a generous financial backer helping tilt supposedly better odds toward you? I’m not quite sure.
I’m not discounting come-from-behind dramas or fairy-tale endings but from where I’m sitting, there’s no way the country can end its long-running search for the Olympic gold in London.
Not in this Olympiad. Not with these crop of athletes – and sports leaders.
And certainly not with just one bet having a realistic shot at the gold.
That sad thought occurred to me Thursday afternoon as fellow sportswriters. watched over the internet how lightweight Charly Suarez mounted a spirited. rally in the third and final round against China’s Qiang Liu. The fight was
for a seat in the London Olympic lightweight class.
In his previous fights in the qualifier in Astana, Kasakhstan, Suarez was very impressive. He somehow channelled Manny Pacquiao when he was throwing a barrage of combinations before pulling out of reach from his dazed opponent
to avoid getting scored on with counters.
Yet against Liu, he was a different boxer altogether. Knowing the tough odds he was facing against the 5-foot-10 Liu, Suarez dropped his form and went on the defensive in the first round. It ended with the Chinese holding a 3-1 buffer. By the next round, Liu was wisely using his jabs to fend off the
Filipino and finished it with an even bigger lead at 8-4.
By the last round, Suarez finally decided to ramp things up, busting Liu’s nose and staggering him by the ropes for a mandatory eight-count.
You can’t expect the judges to suddenly give you the fight just because of a great third round. It’s not just the way things go in amateur boxing.
Yet what made me furious and decide to later in the evening drown my sorrows at a nearby sports grill was the fact that all along, Suarez had the faculties to score a convincing win, even by KO, but it took him too long to use them.
Anyway, that epic fail resounded to the leadership of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines. Turns out things didn’t change despite the financial boost the sport got from sports-loving tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan.
Maybe it’s because the clean-up they did upon assuming Abap leadership wasn’t as thorough as getting to the bottom of the drum. The rust of the old-style training and talent identification was still very much present.
Let me walk you through it.
The Philippines has so far won nine medals in the Olympics since taking part for the first time in 1924 in Paris. Of them, five came from the Filipino boxers. Two were silvers: One won by Anthony Villanueva (featherweight) in the 1964 Tokyo and later by Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco (light fly) in the 1996 Atlanta.
The Filipinos boxers also accounted for three bronzes through Onyok’s brother Roel Velasco (light fly) in 1992 (Barcelona), Leopoldo Serrantes (light fly) in 1988 (Seoul), and Jose Villanueva (bantamweight) in 1932 (Los Angeles).
I guess that’s enough proof that if and when the country finally gets around to win the gold medal, it would come from the Filipino fist.
So until bowling and billiards get included in regular calendar, let’s toss aside other sports and focus on boxing, the one and only sport that brought us unparalleled fame worldwide.
In the early 90s, I read an AP article describing Thai boxers as “having the Cuban coach,” while heaping praise on the Filipino pugs as having “the Cuban punch.”
Things have changed since then. And though we have five Filipino world champions (Manny Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire Jr., Brian Viloria, Donnie Nietes and Sonny Boy Jaro) in the professional world, we continue sink into ignominy in the amateur stage.
Which brings is back to the London Olympic prospects.
The problem now is that the country will most likely hinge its gold medal hopes on only one fighter.
And to think that one fighter, Mark Anthony Barriga, piggybacked to the Olympics after losing his quarterfinal match against the eventual light flyweight gold medalist in the World Championships.
While he was technically not a “token athlete,” he surely didn’t make it to the Olympics on his own merit because had the eventual champion lost his gold medal match, Barriga would have lost his Olympic slot also.
Of course, we can still send women boxers through the coming qualifying in China next month, but that would even be a far longer shot if you ask me.
To make it fair, let me mention that the country also contended with just one boxer in the Olympics four years ago in Beijing. Harry Tanamor came back from long hibernation to don the national colors all by himself. During that Olympiad, Manny Pacquiao stood as the flag bearer for the 15-man delegation.
But not even Pacman’s presence could bolster Tanamor’s morale as he headed to the exits as early as the Round of 32.
Four years back, another boxer Fil-American Christopher Camat hoisted the tricolors in Athens, leading four boxers from the contingent of 16 athletes.
Back then, only Tanamor and an ageing Romeo Brin managed to make the second round, while Violito Payla and Camat could only scratch their heads after bowing out in the first round.
In the 2000 Games in Sydney, we also sent four boxers hoping to ride on the crest of Onyok’s success the previous Olympiad. But the fathest they could reach was second round through brothers Danilo and Arlan Lerio.
When Onyok lost a close decision to Daniel Boujilov of Bulgaria in Atlanta, the country had five boxers in contention. Fellow 1993 Asian Games winner Elias Recaido managed to get to third round, while another Asiad champ Reynaldo Galido, Virgilio Vicera and Brin dropped out early on.
Five boxers also saw action along with Roel when he took bronze in Barcelona. In Seoul, six fighters plunged into action with Serrantes taking the bronze.
The point is launching such a daunting campaign is tough enough even when having an entire team waging war with you.
Going there alone is Quixotic, to put it mildly.
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