Philippines, 02 Mar 2021
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PHL boxers aim for overall honors

Rogen Ladon (L) and Charly Suarez in Rio.

It’s not just because the Philippines is the only country to enter boxers in 13 weight divisions, including five women’s events, but ABAP secretary-general Ed Picson said yesterday the host team has the deepest talent with the best chances to capture overall Southeast Asian (SEA) Games honors in the sport.

“I’m not into making predictions,” said Picson. “But I think we stand a good chance of gaining the most golds of any country and taking the overall championship in boxing. PSC supported our overseas training in China and India this year. We also sent boxers to the AIBA World Championships in Russia where we had podium finishes in men and women.”

The AIBA World Championships for men were in Yekaterinburg last Sept. 9-21 with middleweight Eumir Marcial taking the silver while the AIBA World Championships for women were in Ulan Ude last Oct. 3-13 with featherweight Nesthy Petecio claiming the gold.

The Philippine men’s boxing team is composed of lightflyweight (46-49 kg) Carlo Paalam, 21, flyweight (52 kg) Rogen Ladon, 26, bantamweight (56 kg) Ian Clark Bautista, 25, lightweight (60 kg) Charly Suarez, 31, lightwelterweight (64 kg) James Palicte, 25, welterweight (69 kg) Marjon Pianar, 20, middleweight (75 kg) Marcial, 24 and lightheavyweight (81 kg) John Marvin, 26. The women’s squad is made up of lightflyweight (48 kg) Josie Gabuco, 32, flyweight (51) Irish Magno, 28, bantamweight (54 kg) Aira Villegas, 24, featherweight (57 kg) Petecio, 27 and lightweight (60 kg) Riza Pasuit, 26.

Only Palicte and Pianar are SEA Games rookies. The others are bemedalled veterans. Gabuco won the AIBA women’s world title in 2012 and swept the gold in the 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015 SEA Games. Petecio bagged the silver in the 2011, 2013 and 2015 SEA Games. Marcial took the gold in the 2015 and 2017 SEA Games. Marvin is the defending SEA Games lightheavyweight champion. Bautista pocketed the gold in the 2015 SEA Games and a bronze in the 2017 edition. Suarez, a 2016 Rio Olympian, hit paydirt in the 2009 and 2011 SEA Games and is putting his pro career on hold to try for a third gold medal.

In the previous SEA Games, host Malaysia scheduled only six men’s events in boxing with the Philippines bringing home two gold, one silver and two bronzes. Only Paalam, a bronze medalist in the 2016 AIBA World Youth Championships in Russia, failed to pick up a medal. Thailand won the overall championship. In the 2015 SEA Games, there were 10 events as the Philippines garnered five gold, three silver and two bronzes to capture the overall title.

Picson said the team would’ve gone to Queensland, Australia, for its final training camp last month but visa issues aborted the trip. Instead, a contingent of 17 boxers from Australia flew in to spar with the national squad under coaches Brenton Doblo and Jacqueline Noske. “We applied for visitors’ visas with the Australian Embassy only to be told a week later, we had to reapply for another type of visa,” said Picson. “We were running out of time so we asked PSC if we could invite Australia to come over instead. The Australians trained with us for over two weeks. It was mutually beneficial since they were preparing for the Australian Nationals. Eumir, John and Marjon got good sparring with the big Australians who came with two middleweights and two lightheavyweights.”

Picson said it wasn’t easy picking the boxers for the SEA Games in some divisions. “There were a few close calls but in the end, we decided to go with the 13,” he said. “Charly’s the only pro in our lineup. He’s been very conscientious. No special treatment for him. He was quartered just like the others for over a month. If he wants to try for another Olympics, why not? It will depend on how he does in the SEA Games.”

Palicte is a native of Bago City where Olympic medalists Roel and Onyok Velasco are from. A high school graduate, he’s making his SEA Games debut after taking the gold in the 2016 China Open and silver in the 2018 Thailand International Tournament. The 5-8 fighter topped three national championships before joining the ABAP pool. He competed in the lightweight division at the 2018 Asian Games, drew a bye in the round of 32 then lost to Shunkor Abdurasulov of Uzbekistan on a 5-0 decision in the round of 16. Palicte’s older brother Aston is a world-rated superflyweight pro boxer.

The boxing competition will be held at the PICC Forum 2 on Dec. 4-9. Of the 11 Southeast Asian countries, only Brunei is not participating in boxing. There are 76 boxers, including 25 women, in the rosters of 10 countries. Thailand and Vietnam are participating in 10 events. Action begins with the men’s flyweight preliminaries at 3 p.m. on Wednesday. The opening schedule lists 12 bouts.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.

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