As usual, hopes pinned on boxing
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - September 28, 2014 - 12:00am

As the sun slowly sets on the Philippines’ elusive chase for a gold medal at the Incheon Asian Games, the one sport where the country has leaned on for years to enrich its harvest is once again in line to save the day.

Boxing has accounted for three of the Philippines’ last seven gold medals at the 2006 and 2010 Asian Games. It has brought in seven of the last 25 medals. In all, boxing has garnered 49 total medals for the Philippines since the Asian Games’ inception in 1951, broken down into 15 gold, eight silver and 26 bronze medals. The Philippines ranks third in all-time gold medal standings behind South Korea’s 56 and Thailand’s 19.

The Philippines started to collect medals in boxing at the second Asian Games in Manila in 1954 with flyweight Ernesto Sajo, bantamweight Alejandro Ortuoste, lightweight Celedonio Espinosa, lightwelterweight Ernesto Porto and middleweight Vicente Tunacao striking gold. Multiple golds came once more at the 1994 Hiroshima Games with lightflyweight Onyok Velasco, flyweight Elias Recaido and lightwelterweight Reynaldo Galido hitting paydirt. Then, flyweight Violito Payla and bantamweight Joan Tipon ascended the throne at the 2006 edition and flyweight Rey Saludar in 2010.

Now, in Incheon, the Philippines is in hot contention for more boxing golds. Yesterday, flyweight Josie Gabuco and lightweight Nesthy Petecio opened their bids in the women’s division with flyweight Ian Clark Bautista seeking his second win in a bout against hometown bet Choe Sangdon. This afternoon, Gabuco and Petecio return to action in the quarterfinals assuming they hurdled their assignments yesterday. Two wins in the women’s division guarantee at least a bronze medal.

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Lightflyweight Mark Anthony Barriga, the country’s lone boxer at the London Olympics, shoots for his second victory against Japan’s Tosho Kashiwasaki tonight. Barriga booked a win by split decision over Syria’s Hussin Al Masri to begin his campaign.

The first casualty in the Filipino boxing delegation of six males and two females was lightwelterweight Dennis Galvan who bowed to Mongolia’s Chinzorig Battarsukh, 3-0, in his initial bout. It was their second encounter. At the President’s Cup in Kazakhstan this year, Battarsukh also tripped Galvan in the first preliminary round. Galvan, 22, won a gold at the 2011 Southeast Asian Games in Palembang and a silver at the next edition in Myanmar last year.  

Two Filipino hopefuls continue their quest in fights at the Seonhak Gym tomorrow. Featherweight Charly Suarez is up against Iraq’s Anmar Jabbar Hasan Hasan while middleweight Wilfredo Lopez battles Iraq’s Waheed Abdulridha Waheed Waheed. Suarez barged into the quarterfinals after taking down Uzbekistan’s Elnur Abduraimov and India’s Akhil Kumar, both on split decisions. A win over Hasan guarantees Suarez a bronze medal and an advance to the semifinals on Thursday.

Lopez hammered out a close win over Turkmenistan’s Aziz Achilov in his first match. The scores were 29-28 twice for Lopez and 29-28 once for Achilov. If Lopez survives Waheed, he fights in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

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Of the 13 gold medals at stake in boxing, the Philippines sent entries in eight classes, skipping only the women’s middleweight division and the men’s superheavyweight, heavyweight, lightheavyweight and welterweight categories.

Among the male contenders, Suarez, 26, and Barriga, 21, are the country’s best bets to snag a gold. Suarez has captured two golds at the Southeast Asian Games and gained a wealth of experience campaigning for Mumbai of India and the Dolce & Gabbana Thunder of Italy in the World Series of Boxing. Barriga qualified for the London Olympics after making it to the quarterfinals at the 2011 World Championships, beating Romania’s Stefan Caslarov and Ireland’s Paddy Barnes before losing to China’s Zou Shiming. At the Olympics, Barriga outpointed Italy’s Manuel Cappai, 17-7, then lost a controversial 17-16 squeaker to Kazakhstan’s Birzhan Zhakypov. He bounced back to claim the gold at the Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar last year.

It’s no wonder that boxing continues to provide a wealth of medal options for the Philippines. The Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP), the country’s governing body for the sport, is neither wracked by leadership squabbles nor corrupted by selfish interests unlike other NSAs. It is managed professionally by an executive director Ed Picson who knows his stuff. The ABAP is well-funded because the programs are well-defined. There is justification for what ABAP solicits from funding sources and the results are evident.

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