PHILIPPINE chef de mission Manny Lopez on Wednesday called as "unfortunate" the decision of the International Amateur Boxing Association (Aiba) to deny Filipino boxer Charly Suarez a place in the London Games but urged the national boxing federation he once headed to move on.
The Aiba, through executive director Ho Kim, informed Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (Abap) president Ricky Vargas of its decision to deny Suarez a berth in next month’s quadrennial meet, leaving light-flyweight Mark Barriga as the lone hope in a sport that has been a rich source of medals for the country.
The decision stunned Abap officials but it came as no surprise to Lopez, who from the start was almost certain the request to grant Suarez an invitation similar to a wildcard berth would go nowhere since Aiba prioritizes requests from countries with no Olympic representation in accordance with International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines.
“(Aiba president) Dr [Ching Kuo] Wu was taking Abap for a ride,” said Lopez, a vice-president of Abap and the Philippine Olympic Committee. “From the very start, I was telling them (Abap officials) not to bank on it.
"It’s very unfortunate, but we have to move on.”
The Abap had written a letter -– which boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao even endorsed -- asking Aiba to consider lightweight Suarez for the Olympics based on his silver medal performance in the final Asian qualifying tournament held in Astana, Kazakhstan where the Filipino lost an unpopular decision to Qiang Liu of China.
Only the gold medal winner in the Kazakhstan tournament was given a ticket to London.
But in his email to Vargas, Ho explained that Suarez failed to "meet the qualification as the next best boxer in your continent" based on the competition protocol list.
According to Ho, the selection was made based on the Olympic qualifying guidelines approved by the IOC executive board, “where the next best boxer from the 2011 Aiba World Boxing Championships is supposed to be selected.”
Lopez said the country’s Olympic campaign remains solid despite the bad news but added Suarez, a former protege, could have been a great addition to the lean, 11-man Filipino contingent.
“Nakakalungkot lang. With Charly around, we could have increased our chances of winning a medal. But all is not lost,” he said.
Lopez said Suarez’s case was similar to Ireland’s Joe Ward, who was also denied a wildcard berth in the Olympics as six Irish boxers already qualified for the July 27 to August 12 Games. Ward, ranked the third best light-heavyweight in the world, also lost a highly-debatable bout against Bahram Muzaffer of Turkey in a similar Olympic qualifying event.
“Concentrate na tayo kay Mark,’ said Lopez. “And then, let’s prepare hard for the next Olympics.”