THE Philippine boxing team is looking at either a U.S. or Cuban training as highlight of its preparation for the coming Rio De Janeiro Olympics.
Coach Nolito ‘Boy’ Velasco said the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (Abap) is merely awaiting the final two Olympic qualifying tournaments to be held in the next two months before deciding which of the two countries will serve as training camp of the national squad.
The women’s qualifier is set in Kazakshtan on May 16, while the final qualifier for men’s will be in Azerbaijan on June 14.
Velasco is hopeful more Filipino boxers will earn Olympic berths out of the two tournaments and join Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez in their bid to give the country its first ever gold medal in the quadrennial meet.
“Pagkatapos ng qualifiers, i-push through na namin yung (training) program namin either sa US or Cuba, kasi mas malapit na yung dalawang bansa na yun sa Brazil,” said Velasco, flanked by Ladon and Suarez during their appearance at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday at Shakey’s Malate.
Still in contention for a berth in the Olympics is top bet Nesty Petecio, who will vie in the 51 kg. class. Female boxers Josie Gabuco and Irish Magno are also going to compete but not part of the qualifier.
In the men’s side, looking to book a trip to Brazil are either Ian Clark Bautista or Roldan Boncales (52 kg), Mario Fernandez (56 kg), Dennis Galvan (64 kg), and Eumir Marcial (69 kg).
Velasco said in the same session presented by San Miguel Corp., Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., Accel, and Shakey’s, that a slot at 64 kg. is being reserved for boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao if and when he decides to compete in the August 5-21 meet.
The International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) is set to hold a special meeting next month to formalize its plan of opening the Olympic door to professional boxers.
“Kung gustong pumasok ni Congressman (Manny Pacquiao), naka-reserve yung slot sa kanya. Kung hindi naman, papadala namin si Dennis Galvan,” said the longtime boxing coach and older brother to Olympic medalists Rhoel and Mansueto ‘Onyok’ Velasco.
He added from the training camp, the team is likely to head straight to Rio De Janeiro.
“Once umalis kami rito (Pilipinas), tuluy-tuloy na ang alis namin nun,” he said. “Pagbalik namin para sa celebration na yun.”
Ladon and Suarez said they will try to give their best of making the Filipinos proud.
“Wala ng bukas, last chance ko na ito, e. Lalaban ako para sa Panginoon, sa pamilya, at sa bayan,” said Suarez, who is competing at 60 kg.
“May pressure din, pero ito ang hinahangad ng buong bansa, may responsibilidad kami sa ating bansa,” said Ladon, fighting at the 48 kg. division.