Fourteen Pinoy boxers off to US camp in last-ditch bid to earn places in Rio Olympics
Roger Ladon is among 14 Filipino boxers leaving for the US camp.

IN pursuit of the Olympic dream and international glory, a 20-man delegation from the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) is leaving on Wednesday for a three-week training tour of the US West Coast.

Stops in Olympic training facilities located in Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are scheduled for the 14 Filipino boxers and five coaches, said ABAP executive director Ed Picson, who will head the boxing contingent seeking slots in the Asia-Oceania Qualifying Tournament in Qan' An, China from March 23 to April 3.

Only one boxer from each weight category will be chosen.

Leaving for the States are Rogen Ladon and Mark Anthony Barriga (light flyweight), Ian Clarke Bautista and  Roldan Boncales (flyweight), Mario Fernandez and Mario Bautista (bantamweight), Charly Suarez, Junel Cantancio, and James Palicte (lightweight), Eumir Felix Marcial and Joel Bacho (welterweight), and women boxers Josie Gabuco, Irish Magno, and Nesthy Petecio (flyweight).

Coaches are Nolito Velasco, Romeo Brin, Roel Velasco, and Mitchel Martinez. Head coach Pat Gaspi, who left Monday morning for Manchester, England for the annual AIBA Coaches Commission of which he is a member, won’t be able to join the US trip.

The US training camp, a rare opportunity for the Filipino boxers made possible by the Philippine Sports Commission’s Jolly Gomez and Philippine Airlines president Jimmy Bautista and PAL SAVP Harry Inoferio, is part of the ABAP strategic plan for Olympic qualification.

University of San Francisco Professors Angelo Merino (former head coach of the USF Boxing Gym) and Dr. Joaquin ‘Jay’ Gonzalez did the spadework in paving the way for the boxers' trip. Nonito ‘Dodong’ Donaire Sr., meanwhile, is helping the team by arranging training stints in various gyms in the different areas.

“This training camp is just the initial phase in our preparations for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics,” said Abap president Ricky Vargas. “We want to give our boxers the best opportunities to qualify and if and when they do, we have even bigger plans for their Olympic medal quest.”

The MVP Sports Foundation Inc. is bankrolling the trip.

Earlier this year, Great Britain Boxing and AIBA 3-star coach Christopher Cain stayed for a month with the boxers in Baguio City to observe and give his insights on their training regimens. He also exchanged notes with local coaches on various methodologies.

The Australian national team, which has a reciprocal program with ABAP, was also in Baguio for two weeks in early February where both their men and women boxers trained with the Filipinos. They will return end of this week and go straight to China for the qualifiers after their stay here.


Follow the writer on Twitter: @spinph