IOC axe leaves out Suarez

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star

Three-time SEA Games gold medalist Charly Suarez’ hopes for a return to the Olympics were dashed when the IOC Boxing Task Force decided last Monday to cancel the world qualifying tournament which would’ve been held in Paris in June. Suarez, 32, competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics where he lost a split decision to England’s Joe Cordina in his Summer Games debut and had dreamed of a comeback to erase the bitter memory of the hairline defeat.

Since Rio, Suarez turned pro and has compiled a 5-0 record, with 4 KOs. Last Saturday, he outpointed Jonjon Estrada in his first 10-rounder, scoring a shutout in two of the three judges cards, in Paniqui, Tarlac. His plan was to join the ABAP pool now training at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba then proceed with the team to training camp in Thailand.

Under the new Olympic weight classifications, Suarez had a choice of fighting as a featherweight (57 kg or 125.7 pounds) or lightweight (63 kg or 138.9). Against Estrada, Suarez scaled 131 pounds and in his five pro bouts, he has never weighed over 132. When he knocked out Virgil Puton in the first round in his third fight, Suarez tipped in at 128 1/2. The Olympic lightweight limit of 63 kg would’ve been too heavy and Suarez said bringing down his weight to 57 kg was doable. In the featherweight class, Suarez had to outshine Junilardo Ogayre, Mario Fernandez and Ian Clark Bautista to make it back to the Philippine team. But that became academic with the world qualifying tournament’s cancellation.

Bautista is the country’s highest-ranked featherweight, meaning if ever the Philippines is awarded a ticket in this division, he would take it, not Suarez, not anyone else. Without the world qualifying tournament, the highest-ranked available Asian will be given a slot in Tokyo. Bautista is ranked No. 17 but two Asians, who haven’t qualified, are higher in the standings so the only way he goes to the Olympics is if No. 7 Erdenebat Tsendbaatar of Mongolia and No. 14 Kavinder Bisht of India back out. That’s a slim chance. However, two Philippine boxers are the highest-ranked Asians not yet qualified in their divisions so it’s likely No. 12 men’s flyweight Carlo Paalam and No. 5 women’s featherweight Nesthy Petecio will advance.

ABAP secretary-general Ed Picson said the other day it’s not sure if Paalam and Petecio will make it to Tokyo as the IOC will still announce quota places for Asia with recalculated rankings next month. ABAP is now processing the travel documents of 11 to 12 fighters to leave for training in Thailand on Feb. 22. Picson said the door is open for Suarez and Olympic qualifier Eumir Marcial, who’s in Los Angeles, to join the group. The country’s other Olympic qualifier Irish Magno is in the traveling party. It will be preparation for the Olympics and the Hanoi SEA Games late this year. For Suarez, the training will be for a fourth SEA Games gold medal. Picson said the Calamba camp has been smooth sailing. One of the boxers tested positive for COVID upon entering, was treated and quarantined at ULTRA and is now back in Calamba.

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