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SPORTS SHORTS 209: LEOPOLDO SERANTES IN MEMORIAM


PhilBoxing.com




Leopoldo Serantes won a bronze medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea in the light flyweight (-48 kg) division, ending the 24 year medal drought since boxer Anthony Villanueva, his head coach, won a silver medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and he became that time the sixth Filipino Olympic medalist.

* * *

Just as the Philippines celebrated its finest Olympic performance with a gold, two silver and a bronze, we lost one of our Olympic hero in Serantes who died on September 1, 2021 at age of 59 while confined in the intensive care unit of the Veteran Memorial Hospital in Quezon City due to chronic pulmonary disease.

* * *

Serantes was a Bicolano and a member of the Philippine national boxing team during the decade 1980s. He was known as the lone gold medalist for the Philippines in the 1985 Bangkok Southeast Asian Games, defeating hometown favorite Supad Boonrowd in the men's light flyweight final.

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Host Thailand bagged nine out of the 13 gold medals contested in boxing. Four Filipinos entered the championship round and only Serantes came out winning the gold.

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Serantes then successfully defended his light flyweight title in the 1987 Jakarta Southeast Asian Games, and he was one of two Filipinos who won a gold medal in boxing in that games. The other boxer who won the gold was Leopoldo Cantancio in the lightweight division.

* * *

During the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the officials were optimistic about the country’s medal chances with 31 athletes in 11 sports disciplines represented the Philippines. Boxing, which gave the Philippines’ last medal 24 years before that, a silver by Anthony Villanueva, had the biggest chance of winning a medal for the country.

* * *

Villanueva came home from the Unites States and joined as a trainer of the national team. For the Seoul Olympics, the Philippines sent six fighters, the country’s biggest Olympic boxing squad so far.

* * *

Serantes was considered a favorite in the light flyweight division, but experts believed the best contender for a medal was lightweight Leopoldo Cantancio, Serantes' namesake.

* * *

The light flyweight division in the Seoul Olympics include four future professional world champions, namely Michael Carbajal of the United States, Wayne McCullough of Ireland, Scotty Olson of Canada, and Chatchai Sasakul of Thailand.

* * *

Sasakul would later become the WBC and lineal flyweight champion then lost via eighth round knockout to Manny Pacquiao.

* * *

Fighting in the same light flyweight division were 1985 World Cup gold medalist and 1986 World Championships bronze medalist Oh Kwang-Soo of the host South Korea and 1980 Olympic bronze medalist Ivailo Marinov of Bulgaria.

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Cantancio, together with flyweight Robert Jalnaiz, bantamweight Michael Hormillosa, featherweight Orlando Dollente, and middleweight Emmanuel Legaspi, lost their first preliminary bouts in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

* * *

Jalnaiz was the only Filipino who lost on points while the other four were defeated by stoppages with Cantancio knocked out in the first round by future undisputed light welterweight world champion Kostya Tszyu of Russia.

* * *

Serantes, who was only 26 then, drew a bye in the round of 64. He was impressive in his first bout in the Round of 32 when he stopped Moustafa Hassan of Egypt in the second round. In the next round of 16 he conquered Sam Steward of Liberia by a 5-0 decision.

* * *

He faced Mahjoub M’jirih of Morocco, second-time Olympian, in the quarter finals. He battered the Moroccan and the referee had to stop the fight in the third round.

* * *

Serantes’ triumph was a sure bronze medal win for the Philippines, the country’s first podium finish since 1964 and its third in boxing, because Villanueva’s father, Jose, won a bronze in 1932.

* * *

In the semifinals, Serantes fought for the silver medal, but rammed into a formidable fortress in Bulgaria’s Marinov, who won the world championship in 1982. He was also a two-time European champion.

* * *

In the semifinal bout between Serantes and Marinov, the Bulgarian simply was too much for Serantes to contend and proved to be the more excellent fighter. Marinov later defeated the popular Carbajal in the finals. He won all his five fights in the Seoul Olympics via 5-0 decisions en route to the gold medal.

* * *

Serantes’ bronze medal win was considered a superior victory like a gold as it ended the Philippines' 24-year medal shortage. He was considered a hero back home.

* * *

He was awarded the Philippine Sportswriters Association Athlete of the Year in 1988 together with Arianne Cerdena, who won gold medal in the Olympic demonstration sport of bowling.

* * *

Serantes’ fame, however, did not last long. Like several Philippine sports heroes, he was forgotten with financial distress to cover his medical expenses when he fought his illness chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

* * *

Chooks-to-Go came to the rescue and committed to provide Serantes with a P100,000 monthly allowance for life. Bounty Agro Ventures Inc president Ronald Mascariñas said Serantes’ legacy and service to the country should be properly honored.

* * *

Serantes was inducted into the Philippine Sports Hall of Fame, although it was a virtual online ceremony before he died. Serantes is survived by seven children and 24 grandchildren.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Maloney L. Samaco.


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