For the record, only two boxers—Charly Suarez, who has moved down as a bantamweight without too much trouble and certainly without any loss of prowess, and female boxer Annie Albania, an impressive medal winner in the past—appear qualified when measured against the POC criteria.
But this, quite honestly, is fallacious because under the leadership of Vargas and Abap chair Manny Pangilinan, the esteemed businessman-sportsman, the thrust over the past two years has very correctly been to scout for and to develop young and promising new talents and not resort to the comfortable, worn-out practice of sending ageing, over-the-hill medal winners.
We have personally criticized the Abap in the past for insisting on having fighters like Harry Tañamor and, maybe, even Joan Tipon represent the country in international competitions because they are past their prime and their overall skills, reflexes, power and desire have been diminished by the passing of the years.
The Abap has now identified a new breed of promising youngsters whom they would wish to send into battle in the Asian Games, but obviously with no guarantee of success.
It’s a subjective issue, to be sure, and that’s the dilemma facing both the Abap and the POC. Every defeat will reflect negatively on the overall ratio of success to the number of athletes sent, and the POC leadership will be the first to be taken to task by a demanding public.
Vargas, Abap executive director Ed Picson, and the coaching staff obviously believe that the fighters possess the potential to win medals. It’s a fervent hope at best, but clearly based on their valued judgment and a measure of hope.
Given the realities of the level of competition in the Asian Games, Romasanta, the chief of mission of the RP delegation, and the POC hierarchy also have good reason to question, if not to turn down, the requests made based on their own reading of the situation.
This is where the burden now lies—on the Abap officials who are no real experts as such. They are honest individuals who must necessarily have faith and trust in the evaluation of the coaching staff and in the boxers themselves to perform at the highest level.
One of the issues is the inclusion of young light flyweight Victorio Saludar, who lost in a countback to China’s Wu Zhongling after they battled to a 6-6 standoff in the finals of the first MVP Cup Friendship Games recently.
That Saludar had to settle for the silver medal should not be held against him because he was beaten by a truly talented opponent.
There is a need to realize that, while a fighter may have devastating power, it is difficult, if not almost impossible, to score a knockout in amateur boxing because of the protective headgear and the reluctance of fighters to slug it out. Besides, hand speed, timing and accuracy are the constants that help a fighter earn points in amateur boxing and win—not punching power, which is an essential facet in the pro ranks.
The advantage Saludar has is that he is in a lower weight class where Filipinos usually do well, unlike in the heavier divisions where the big punchers from Kazakhstan, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Korea and China usually dominate. To risk sending a fighter in the higher weight divisions, unless he shows exceptional skill and power, would be to court disaster.
Clearly, the burden is on the Abap to make a strong case for the fighters it wishes to send to China for the Asian Games, while it is incumbent on the POC to respond fairly and responsibly to the requests. With Vargas and Romasanta reasoning out with each other like the good and decent men that they are, we are certain our country will be represented by fighters who deserve to be given a chance to compete and who will, we are confident, do our country proud.