PUERTO PRINCESA — Two promising Filipino fighters try to punch their way to the gold in the 2017 ASBC Asian Juniors Boxing Championships after hurdling their respective semifinal opponents on Sunday.
Kenneth Dela Pena and John Vincent Pangga pulled off contrasting decision wins at the Puerto Princesa City Coliseum to earn berths in the final of their respective divisions.
Dela Pena scored a unanimous decision victory over Chen-Cheng Yu of Chinese Taipei in the pinweight class, while Pangga, a Palarong Pambansa gold medalist, eked out a split decision against Talgat Syrymbetov of Kazakhstan in the flyweight division.
Both are fighting internationally for the first time.
"Malaki ang tsansa," said coach Ronald Chavez of the prospect of winning a gold in Monday's final.
The two young Filipinos will be up against opponents from boxing power countries.
Dela Pena, who hails from Barangay Apopong in GenSan, is set to meet Akilbek Mukhtarov of Kazakhstan in the first final bout, while Pangga goes on a head-on collision with Sarawut Sukthet of Thailand.
Mukhtarov beat Mukhammadmuso Abdurakhmonov of Uzbekistan and Sukhtet turned back Muktarbek Ibraimov of Kygrystan. Both fighters won by unanimous decision.
Dela Pena, who won a silver medal in his first tournament during last year’s Batang Pinoy in Tagum City, joined the national pool just last June. While he hails from GenSan, known as the home of legendary champion Manny Pacquiao, he admitted being a fan instead of current super featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko.
Pangga is a four-time is a four-time gold medal winner in the Batang Pinoy including two in the national final in 2015 (Cebu) and 2016 (Tagum), respectively. He also bagged a gold in the 2015 edition of the Palarong Pambansa in Albay.
The 16-year-old native of Cagayan de Oro actually scored a standing eight-count against his favored Kazakh foe in the semis, which heavily factored in the closely-fought bout.
Association of Boxing Alliance in the Philippines (ABAP) president Ricky Vargas lauded the two for their effort and wished them luck in their bid for the gold.
“I’m happy that we have two (entries) in the finals. When we started this tournament sabi ko maka-medalya lang tayo, ok na.” said Vargas, who arrived in this scenic city accompanied by ABAP secretary-general Patrick Gregorio.
The city government of Puerto Princesa is supporting the meet led by Palawan Gov. Jose Alvarez, Philippine Sports Commission, MVP Sports Foundation, Smart, Maynilad, PLDT, Wesing, Meralco, One Foundation, Philippine Airlines, San Miguel Corp., and Hotel Centro Puerto Princesa.