BAGUIO CITY - The Philippine boxing team competes in two international tournaments as it gears up for two major events later this year.
A six-man squad is bound for Thailand to see action in the annual Kings Cup set April 3-9, before another batch leaves for Uzbekistan three weeks later to participate in the Asian Men's Championship, which serves as qualifier to the World Championship.
The twin meets serve as the Filipino boxers' preparation for the Southeast Asian Games and the World Championship set in August in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Hamburg, Germany, respectively.
"Towards SEA Games na ito and World Championship," said head coach Pat Gaspi.
The six boxers going to Bangkok are Carlo Paalam (light flyweight), Ian Clark Bautista (flyweight), Mario Fernandez (bantamweight), James Palicte (lightweight), Joel Bacho (middleweight), and Eumir Marcial (middleweight).
The six also have a shot at going to the Asian Championship depending on their performance in Bangkok, according to Gaspi.
"Itong anim kandidato na ito sa world qualifier, although may iba pa tayong nakaposte diyan like yung mga Olympians natin na si Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez," added the long-time coach.
The team has been training here since January along with the entire national pool of the Alliances of Boxing Association in the Philippines (ABAP).
But there will be also training camps for the boxers in China, Cuba, and possibly Germany, said Gaspi.
Of the six, the 18-year-old Paalam has been showing a lot of promise.
"Galing sa youth team yan pero ngayon nasa elite (team) na," said coach Nolito 'Boy' Velasco.
"Maganda ang pinapakita lalo na sa boxing challenge sa Trinidad (Benguet)," said Velasco of Paalam, a bronze medalist in the last World Youth Championship.
The SEA Games is scheduled to be held simultaneously with the World Championship but Gaspi said ABAP has enough talent to field separate teams in the two tournaments.
"Sa SEA Games hindi naman tayo nasi-zero. One hundred percent medal tayo, depende na lang kung gold, silver, or bronze," said Gaspi.
"Last time overall champion tayo sa Singapore," said Gaspi, noting the Philippines won five golds, three silvers, and two bronzes in the 2015 edition of the biennial meet.
"Sana ma-maintain natin."