MANILA Rep. Manny Lopez blamed the leadership of the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (Abap) for the poor showing of a Philippine boxing team that got wiped out in the Rio De Janeiro Olympics.
Lopez, a former Abap president and now a congressman representing the first district of Manila, said Abap officials failed to prepare the boxers well for the Olympics, leading to the early exits of Charly Suarez and Rogen Ladon.
“It all boils down to leadership. If other people can do it, why can’t they?” Lopez, who was replaced by Ricky Vargas as Abap president in 2009, said in an interview with DZSR Sports Radio.
Lopez and his father, former Manila mayor Mel, produced three Olympic medalists during their almost two-decade watch at Abap - Leopoldo Serantes (bronze medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics) and brothers Roel (bronze in 1992 Games in Barcelona) and Onyok Velasco (silver, 1996 Olympics in Atlanta).
The current Abap leadership has not produced one medal in three Olympiads.
While he saluted Ladon and Suarez for their efforts, Lopez said the current Abap leadership didn't put the boxers in a position to succeed against the world's best fighters.
"Matagal na akong wala sa boxing pero ‘yung nakita kong laro ng ating manlalaro, huwag naman sana ikakasama ng ating mga kasamahan lalo na sa Abap, pero for me, they are a little bit raw for the Olympics," he said.
Ladon lost his first match to Colombian boxer Yurberjen Herney Martinez via unanimous decision, later admitting that pressure as well as a hamstring injury prevented him from giving his best.
“The general preparation was missing for a fact na nakita ko na ang nalalaman lang ng bata natin is jab, straight, jab, straight lang. Mahina ang resistensya niya, second round pa lang, hinihingal na si Rogen.”
As for Suarez, who bowed to European champion Joseph Cordina of Great Britain, Lopez said putting him in the lightweight division where he went up against taller fighters was not a sound decision.
“Hindi ko naman tinatanggal ‘yung kanyang kagalingan pero panahon pa namin ‘yan eh. You have to adopt to the sign of the times na kapag nakita mo na medyo malalaki na lahat ng kalaban, sana dun na tayo lumihis at huwag nating pilitin ‘yung sukat natin na kulang sa tangkad,” said Lopez.
Lopez said national coaches, most of them holdovers from his time, should not be blamed for the debacle.
“Nakakaawa po ‘yung mga coaches na natuturo natin. It’s the easiest way to escape from all responsibilities. Pero sino ba ang naglalagay ng coach diyan, di ba ‘yung leader din po? Hindi naman po sila pinilit ng mga coaches na manatili diyan. Dapat alam ng leader na may pagkukulang ang coach."
Lopez also felt the national team should have trained in Cuba, which has a proven track record in Olympic boxing, and not in the US during the run-up to the Rio Olympiad.
“Pinipilit ko sabihin sa kanila na ‘yan na ang tularan natin, ‘yung ginagawa ng mga Cubano. Hanggang ngayon, as much as you don’t want to admit it, the best way in amateur boxing is the Cuban way. Huwag na tayong magpumilit ng ibang sistema at tularan natin ‘yung talagang sanay na at may pruweba na manalo ng gintong medalya,” said Lopez.
“It does not take a rocket scientist to learn and follow the footsteps of someone who can attain and commit to us what we have been long desiring,” he added.