Host privilege a boost for boxing
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 11, 2019 - 12:00am

5o days to SEA games opener

MANILA, Philippines – Only 50 days are left before the start of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and the ABAP has lined up a three-week training trip to Queensland, Australia, for the final push to get the fighters ready for the coming hostilities.

There are 13 golds up for grabs in boxing which will be held at the PICC Forum in Pasay City. In the men’s division, the weight categories are lightflyweight (46-49 kg), flyweight (52), bantamweight (56), lightweight (60), lightwelterweight (64), welterweight (69), middleweight (75) and lightheavyweight (81). In the women’s division, the weight classes are lightflyweight (48), flyweight (51), bantamweight (54), featherweight (57) and lightweight (60).

Of the 56 sports in the SEA Games calendar, 22 feature at least 10 events with athletics topping the list at 48 and aquatics next at 45. Boxing, canoe/kayak-traditional boat race, cycling and karate are in the menu with 13 events each. Others with at least 10 are dancesport (14), fencing (12), gymnastics (19), archery (10), billiards (10), judo (16), sailing/windsurfing (12), shooting (14), taekwondo (22), weightlifting (10), wrestling (14), wushu (16), arnis (20), jiu-jitsu (11), kurash (10) and lawn bowls/petanque (10).

As the host nation, the Philippines has the privilege of entering competitors in each of the 13 boxing divisions. The limit for other countries is 10 divisions. It’s an edge that ABAP hopes will translate into more podium finishes.

“We’re confident we can win the overall championship in boxing,” said ABAP secretary-general Ed Picson. “But there are never any guarantees in boxing. No one can be sure of winning. I think it’s impossible to sweep the 13 divisions but we’ll do our best in the ring. We’re hosting and the hometown support will be a big morale booster.”

Picson said ABAP submitted the list of 13 fighters to PHISGOC to comply with the Sept. 30 deadline but it’s not final. “We can make changes in our lineup until the day before the weigh-in,” he said. “That’s the reason why for the Australia trip, we’re bringing at least three alternates and four to five coaches.”

Picson said an invitation for the team to train in Sheffield, England, was turned down because of the long processing time for UK visas. ABAP coaching consultant Don Abnett is from Australia and facilitated the training visit to Queensland.

The plan is for the ABAP delegation to leave for Queensland on Oct. 27 and return home on Nov. 16 or 17. Two female fighters, flyweight Irish Magno and lightweight Riza Pasuit, are seeing action in a four-nation pocket tournament in China on Oct. 23-28 and will follow to Australia. Picson said he’s still finalizing the list of alternates to join the trip.

Named to the ABAP squad for the SEA Games were lightflyweight Carlo Paalam, flyweight Rogen Ladon, bantamweight Ian Clark Bautista, lightweight Charly Suarez, lightwelterweight James Palicte, welterweight Joel Bacho, middleweight Eumir Marcial and lightheavyweight John Marvin in the men’s division and lightflyweight Josie Gabuco, Magno, bantamweight Aira Villegas, featherweight Nesthy Petecio and Pasuit.

In the 2017 SEA Games, only six gold medals were at stake in boxing with no women’s division. Bringing home the gold for the Philippines were Marcial and Marvin. Bantamweight Mario Fernandez bagged a silver while Suarez and Bautista took a bronze each. Paalam failed to claim a medal, losing to Malaysian hometowner Muhammad Fuad Redzuan in a highly disputed decision.

Suarez, 31, is making a comeback to the Philippine team after turning pro early this year. He won a pair of gold medals in the 2009 and 2011 SEA Games. Suarez has a 3-0 record with three KOs as a pro. AIBA opened its doors to pros at the 2016 Rio Olympics. WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman recently announced a two-year suspension for pros fighting in the Olympics from participating in a WBC-sanctioned event. He also said they will not be rated by the WBC for at least two years. The suspension, however, will not apply to the SEA Games or competitions outside of the Olympics.

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