Suarez eyes SEA Games gold
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 20, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Two-time Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gold medalist Charly Suarez is taking a leave from the pro ranks to seek a third championship in the 11-nation biennial conclave that the Philippines is hosting late this year.

Suarez, 31, turned pro last January after a celebrated amateur career that included a stint in the 2016 Rio Olympics. He racked up a 3-0 record, with 3 KOs, but with the prospect of winning a gold medal in the coming SEA Games a high probability, decided to go for it.

ABAP secretary-general Ed Picson said Suarez’ decision came almost by accident. “Charly was training for his third pro fight last August and went to the ABAP gym to spar with our national boxers,” said Picson. “Charly’s always welcome in our gym. He was finding it difficult to find sparmates at his weight class so he thought of training with us. After one workout, he passed by my office near the gym and we talked about his future. I broached the idea of Charly giving the SEA Games another shot since we’re hosting.”

Suarez went on to win his fight against Virgil Puton, whom he knocked out in one round, in San Andres then joined the ABAP team in a dual meet with Canadian fighters in Manitoba. “Charly was spectacular and won his two fights in Canada,” said Picson. “That was when we agreed he’d be a sure gold medal winner in the coming SEA Games.”

Suarez said he’s excited to be back in the SEA Games where he took the gold as a featherweight in 2009, another gold as a lightweight in 2011 and the bronze as a lightwelterweight in 2017. He leaves with the national team for a training camp in Queensland, Australia, on Oct. 27-Nov. 16. Before that, Suarez said he’ll be in Vietnam for an exhibition.

“I committed to the exhibition months ago so I asked Mr. Picson if I could go to Vietnam before the trip to Australia,” said Suarez in Pilipino. “Mr. Picson gave me permission. It’s for four rounds and the purse is $5,000, including $1,000 for my trainer. It’s good exposure in preparation for the Australian camp.” Suarez left for Vietnam yesterday and will be back on Tuesday.

The Olympics opened its doors to pro boxers in 2016. There were three pro boxers who fought in Rio but none landed a podium finish. They were former IBF flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng of Thailand, Italy’s Carmine Tommasone and Cameroon’s Hasan N’Dam N’Jikam. The fighters were all over 30 – Amnat 36, Tommasone, 32 and N’Jikam, 32.

Suarez said he’s dropping down to lightweight for the SEA Games. Depending on his performance, he may consider trying to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “I’ve asked Sen. Manny (Pacquiao) to help in promoting my career,” he said. “I was told I might be able to get a spot in the undercard of Sen.’s next fight. If it doesn’t happen, I might try to qualify for Tokyo. My dream is to become a world champion. Right now, I’m like an arrow with one focus, to make it all the way to the top. Since I decided to turn pro, I never stopped training. I’m in the gym every day.”

There are two windows available for Filipino fighters to qualify for the Olympics. First, there is the Asian and Oceania Championships in Wuhan, China on Feb. 3-14 and second, is the World Qualifying Tournament in Paris on May 13-24.

Picson said the Australian camp will give Suarez the opportunity to readjust to the international style. “It’s very different from how the pros fight,” he said. “Charly will need to change his style back to how the amateurs fight. I’m confident he can do it. He’s experienced and he’s versatile. I’m hoping Charly wins his third SEA Games gold medal.”

Suarez came close to hitting paydirt at the 2014 Asian Games, settling for the silver. In the coming SEA Games, fighting before the home crowd is extra motivation for Suarez to give it his all in proving he’s the No. 1 lightweight in the region.

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