TAIPEI – They were supposed to be here only for experience and exposure. Instead they got more than they bargained for.
The PLDT-ABAP national boxing team, composed entirely of first timers in international competition, pulled off a stunning surprise as the five Filipino finalists came away with gold medals in the 2nd Taipei City Cup International Boxing Tournament at the Taiwan Coliseum.
Maricris Igam (48 kg), Irish Magno (51 kg), Rogen Ladon (49 kg), Mario Fernandez (56 kg) and Joel Bacho (64 kg) all came up with convincing victories to give the Philippines the most number of medals in the tournament.
"This validates what we have been saying all along. We have a vibrant grassroots development program that has identified the best potentials from the countryside. These boys and girls give us hope for the future” said ABAP president Ricky Vargas, also the head of Maynilad Water Corporation.
While Japan, host Taipei and Vietnam were the favorites here, the Filipino boys and girls displayed grit and savvy to pull the rug from under the favored ones.
Igam started it all with accurate sniping and surprise attacks against Nguyen Thi Luong of Vietnam to finish the match with much to spare, 25-10. The Puerto Princesa lass was also awarded the Best Female Boxer of the tournament plum.
Magno followed suit with a dominant performance against Taipei's Pin Meng-Chieh, hitting the latter with a solid left to the kisser in the third round for an 8-count, and then bloodying her nose in the 4th. So strong was the bleeding that the referee stopped the contest in the last round, awarding the match to Magno.
Ladon, for over two years training in the shadows of his veteran brother Joegin, finally broke out of his shell, winning the championship in the light flyweight class with a masterful win over Japanese Kenshiro Teraji, 19-10. This despite being assessed a 2-point penalty for ducking in the 3rd round.
The young Ladon was Mark Anthony Barriga's main sparring partner in the run-up to the Olympics.
Fernandez constantly rushed the taller Lin Yu-Che of Taiwan, often catching his opponent flat-footed with cracking left jabs and accurate right straights to punctuate his 19-9 victory.
Capping the golden evening for the country was Bacho, who was an underdog going into the fight against a more seasoned Syuichiro Yoshino. Bacho used guile and smarts to foil the well-built and wily Japanese, 15-8.
PLDT-ABAP team manager Karina Picson beamed at her wards' performance.
"These kids came here with no high expectations. The coaching staff did a marvelous job but our boxers showed discipline, determination and guts. They fought hard for the wins and they have the scars to prove it. It was not as easy as it probably sounds,” she said.
The other two members of the fighting delegation were Janice Vallares, who got a bronze in the 60 kg category, and lightweight Darwin Tondahan.
Coaches were Nolito Velasco, Romeo Brin and Violito Payla.