PUERTO PRINCESA — Kenneth de la Pena and John Vincent Pangga delivered gold medals for the Philippines in the 2017 ASBC Asian Juniors Boxing Championships Monday after ruling their respective weight classes.
De la Pena, 16, scored a split decision win over Akilbek Mukhtarov of Kazakshtan, 4-1, to bag the gold in the pinweight division and get the ball rolling for the Filipinos' medal bid at the Puerto Princesa City Coliseum here.
Pangga followed suit one bout later, hacking out a split decision win over Thai rival Sarawut Sukthet, 4-1, in the flyweight division.
The victories positioned the two as the leading bets for the country's bid in the AIBA World Juniors Championships set later this year.
The team is being handled by Olympians Ronald Chavez, Romeo Brin, and Elmer Pamisa.
It was the first gold medal won by De la Pena, a native of GenSan, in any major tournament. He scored a standing eight-count against Mukhtarov in the first round and then weathered an all-assault launched by the Kazakh in the third and final round.
"Habang tinatamaan ako, sabi ko 'gold na ito. Hindi ko na ito bibitawan," said De la Pena in recalling the late barrage he had to take from Mukhtarov.
The young boxer, one of three fighters in the family including his twi brother, dreams of becoming an Olympian someday.
Pangga, 15, also showed potential of one day representing the country in major international meets in the future with the way he beat Sukthet, with whom he once sparred when the Philippine training pool held a training camp in Thailand last month. During the camp, Sukthet hurt the Filipino with a powerful blow on his chest.
"Gumanti lang ako," he said smiling.
A multipile gold medal in the Batang Pinoy and Palarong Pambansa, the Cagayan de Oro native said h'es proud of finally winning one in the Asian level.
"Masaya kasi buong Asian na ito," said Pangga, who idolizes four-time world champion Nonito Donaire Jr.
Association of Boxing Alliance in the Philippines (ABAP) Ricky Vargas does hope seeing the two represent the country in the Olympiad in the near future.
"I never thought we'd win golds, but the kids fought with a lot of heart," he said after personally awarding the gold medals to both De la Pena and Pangga during the awarding ceremony together with ABAP vice president Patrick Gregorio.
"They showed a lot of potential in becoming Olympians.
ABAP secretary-general Ed Picson said a total of 142 boxers from 18 countires participated in the five-day, 13 division tournament. Four boxers represented the Philippines including Norlan Petecio and Cris Laurente.
The city government of Puerto Princesa supported 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.