ABAP mulls offshore training

Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The final window for Filipino boxers to qualify for the Rio Olympics will be in Baku, Azerbaijan, on June 7-19 with three slots in the lightflyweight division and five each in the flyweight, bantamweight, lightweight, lightwelterweight and welterweight classes available so ABAP executive director Ed Picson said yesterday he’s looking at training opportunities abroad to prepare for the last push.

“We’ve received offers from Thailand and Korea for our boxers to train in their camps,” said Picson. “But we’d rather go to the US or Cuba if we can arrange it. We’ll definitely get a lot of sparring in those countries. We’ve asked AIBA if we can spar with our local pros and also if we can train with pro coaches but so far, no clearance. There is an existing prohibition for AIBA boxers not to work with pro boxers or pro coaches. In the US or Cuba, there won’t be a problem looking for tough sparring with non-pros.”

Picson said ABAP declined to participate in a test tournament in Rio last month. “It wasn’t a qualifier anyway,” he said. “We chose not to expose our fighters.” Boxers from 19 countries, including 13 Olympic qualifiers, participated in the event. Japan, Thailand, Uzbekistan and India were countries that sent boxers to the test event.

“We don’t want to show all our cards,” said Picson. “At the World Championships in Doha last October, Rogen (Ladon) and Eumir (Marcial) were unknown entities until they started winning.” Ladon reached the lightflyweight semifinals while Marcial the welterweight quarterfinals.

Picson said the ABAP coaching staff will get together for a planning session in Baguio today to map out plans for the four Olympic qualifying windows. The ABAP maintains a pool of 13 coaches led by Pat Gaspi. The other 12 coaches are Boy Velasco, Ronald Chavez, Roel Velasco, Romeo Brin, Reynaldo Galido, Joejin Ladon (on military leave), Mitchel Martinez, Elmer Pamisa, Licerio Catolico, Gerson Nietes, Violito Payla and Elias Recaido. The planning session will also be attended by sports psychologist Marcus Manalo, performance analyst Jeff Pagaduan, nutritionist Arabella Ripoll, strength and conditioning coach Mavic Limbaga and sports science expert Eski Ripoll.

Picson said English coach Chris Cain was recently in the country for a month to begin his consultancy with ABAP. His contact stipulates one-month visits every quarter. Cain arrived here Nov. 17 and left Dec. 16. “Chris was highly recommended by our previous foreign coach Kevin Smith who’s now working with Australia,” he said. “Chris is a three-star AIBA certified coach and you can’t get any higher than that. He has a high boxing IQ and got along well with our coaches and boxers. During his sessions with the team, he emphasized the basics, fine-tuning the fundamentals. He came out with positive suggestions like the importance of setting specific goals for every workout. Chris was impressed with our team, saying Filipinos are born into boxing. We learned a lot from him in his first month and we hope to learn more when he comes back. We’re coordinating with the English federation on his available schedule so we’ll know if he can be with us for the Olympic qualifiers and hopefully, in Rio.”

Picson said ABAP received an invitation to participate in a five-nation competition in Cairns, Australia just before the last window in Baku. The Philippines, Papua New Guinea, China, New Zealand and Australia were invited for the tournament.

The ABAP pool is made up of 40 fighters, including nine women. Of the 31 men, 12 are in the junior (15-16 age group) and youth (17-18) divisions. The rest are in the elite division (19-and-over). The plan is to even out the composition to 12 women, 12 youth, 12 juniors and 12 elite in a projected pool of 48.

The 14 candidates for Olympic slots are within the age bracket of 18 to 29. They are lightflyweights Rogen Ladon, 22 and Mark Anthony Barriga, 22, flyweights Ian Clark Bautista, 21 and Rey Saludar, 28, bantamweights Mario Fernandez, 22 and Mario Bautista, 18, lightweights Charly Suarez, 27 and Junel Cantancio, 29, lightwelterweights Dennis Galvan, 24 and Joel Bacho, 23, welterweight Eumir Marcial, 20 and women’s flyweights Nesthy Petecio, 23, Josie Gabuco, 28 and Irish Magno, 24.

So far, 39 boxers have qualified in the six weight divisions where there are Filipino aspirants for Rio. Of the 39, 10 are from Asia – flyweights Lu Bin of China and Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazakhstan, bantamweights Zhang Jiawei of China and Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan, lightweights Berik Abdrakhmanov of Kazakhstan and Hurshid Tojibaev of Uzbekistan, lightwelterweights Wuttichai Masuk of Thailand and Fazliddin Gaibnazarov of Uzbekistan and welterweights Liu Wei of China and Daniyar Yeleussinov of Kazakhstan.

There are 121 slots still available in the six divisions but only 67 for Asia, including four “tripartite invitations” or “wildcards.” The “wildcards” will be chosen by a committee composed of a representative from the IOC, ANOC (Association of National Olympic Committees) and AIBA. The “wildcards” will be awarded to fighters who failed to qualify but came close to making it. Priority will be given to Olympic Solidarity scholars. Marcial and Magno are the boxers among the Philippines’ 12 Olympic Solidarity scholars. Of 286 total slots for male and female boxers, 60 have so far qualified from 24 countries.

The four remaining windows are the Asia/Oceania qualifiers in Qian’an, China on March 23-April 3, the ABP/WSB Olympic Qualifiers in Sofia, Bulgaria on May 13-22, the AIBA World Women’s Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan, on May 19-27 (there are still no women qualifiers) and the AIBA World Olympic Qualifiers in Baku, Azerbaijan, on June 7-19.

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