PHOTO CAPTION: With four boxers in the Olympics, the most that the country is sending to the quadrennial games, expectations are high for the Philippine boxing team. (Getty Images)
(June Navarro/Inquirer Sports)
Team Philippines will have four boxers in the Tokyo Olympics later this year, and with strength in this relatively big number, the Association of Boxing Alliance in the Philippines (ABAP) has all the confidence that the country’s century-old chase for its first Games gold medal will finally end.
Irish Magno and Eumir Marcial qualified for Tokyo via the Asia Oceania Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament in Amman, Jordan, last year while Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam grabbed Olympic spots by virtue of their rankings in Asia as the Philippines, from having just one representative in the ring in Rio de Janeiro 2016, believes it has more than a solid shot in Japan.
This, despite the pandemic that has hit the world, ground sports to a halt, and kept the four Filipino pugs away from full training.
‘CAN’T LOWER EXPECTATIONS’
“We cannot lower our projections, we are aiming no less than the top plum,” said ABAP secretary-general Ed Picson during the Philippine Sportswriters Association forum on Tuesday. “With four qualifiers, we are going for optimal performance in the Olympics.”
Picson said that the ABAP will do its share in making sure that the four will go to Tokyo armed to the teeth.
“Everybody is pulling together for our boxers to be in their optimal condition when they go to the Olympics. We are aiming for the gold. There should be no let up, they understand the urgency of the situation and everybody is going in the same direction,” said Picson.
Aside from the regular coaches, the ABAP has formed a team that will surround the four Olympians in their journey composed of a strength and conditioning expert, nutritionist, and psychologist.
“It’s a team effort. The coaches will prepare them physically, strategically, and tactically, while the rest is up to the boxers,” said Picson. “We’re going to take advantage of the best preparation available despite the unfortunate [health] situation.”
Marcial has sent a request to have a coach with him in the United States, which the ABAP readily agreed to do. But the current situation is making it tough for that to happen.
One of the most critical obstacles that should be cleared is the US visa of the coach, which could take time according to Picson due to the current COVID-19 situation in Metro Manila where the US Embassy is located. This, despite the endorsement of MP Promotions, which Sen. Manny Pacquiao owns and where Marcial is a talent.
With Marcial’s request on hold, Picson suggested in a recent online meeting that the silver medalist in the 2019 Aiba World Championships join his fellow national boxers in their training camp in Thailand. “There is no dearth of sparring partners in Thailand in his weight class. We are trying to convince him to join the team and train together for the Olympics,” said Picson.
The Filipino boxers will break camp in Thailand a week before the Asian championships in New Delhi, India, scheduled to begin May 21.
The boxers’ final stretch of training will all depend on the COVID-19 situation with Picson raising the possibility that the Olympians might not go back to the Philippines and proceed straight to Tokyo for the July 23 to Aug. 3 quadrennial global Games. (June Navarro/Inquirer Sports)