PH pins hope on pugs for first Olympic gold

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LET THE GAMES BEGIN Olympic torch bearer Brazilian former volleyball player Maria Isabel Barroso Salgado holds up the torch the Rio 2016 Olympic games with the City Mayor Eduardo Paes (left) and Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro Orani Tempesta in front of the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Hill in Rio de Janeiro. AFP PHOTO

LET THE GAMES BEGIN Olympic torch bearer Brazilian former volleyball player Maria Isabel Barroso Salgado holds up the torch the Rio 2016 Olympic games with the City Mayor Eduardo Paes (left) and Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro Orani Tempesta in front of the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Hill in Rio de Janeiro. AFP PHOTO

FILIPINO boxers Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez are all set to fight following the official draw in the boxing competitions of the Rio Olympics.

The 22-year-old Ladon, ranked No. 5 in the light-flyweight division, drew a bye along with the other seeds, led by the top favorite from Cuba, reigning world champion Joahnys Argilagos. An athlete who gets a bye is exempted from playing in the first round and directly enters the second round.

Boxing competitions will start on August 6 at the Riocentro Convention Center.

Ladon, silver medalist in the Asian Championships and bronze medalist in the World Championships in 2015, will have three more days to prepare for his Olympic debut.


On August 8, Ladon, of Bago City in Negros Occidental, will face either Yurberjen Herney Martinez of Colombia or Patrick Lourenco of the host country.|

“He got a bye in the first round. So, Brazil or Colombia will be Ladon’s first assignment,” said Philippine boxing team head coach Nolito Velasco.

There are only 22 entries in the 49 kg class, and with the bye, it means that Ladon must only win two bouts to get to the semis and assure himself of a bronze.

If that happens, he will break the 20-year medal drought for the Philippines in the Olympics, and give himself a chance at reaching the finals.

Light-flyweight Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco won the last Olympic medal for the Philippines, a silver during the boxing competitions in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Suarez, 27, the senior member of the Philippine team, is not ranked in the 60 kg division, and will have to face reigning European champion Joseph Cordina on August 6. He will need three wins to get to the semis and assure himself of a medal in his first Olympics.

Cordina, who is three years younger, will test Suarez at 6 p.m. Saturday or barely 24 hours after the opening ceremony.

Because the opening ceremony will finish late at night, Suarez has decided to skip the rites so he could save his energy for the fight the day after.

If Suarez moves on, he may have to deal with Cuban top seed Jorge Lazaro Alvarez in the semifinals of the 60 kg division.

Long drought

The Philippines is seeking to end a 20-year medal drought in the Olympics. It was a boxer, Velasco, who last won a medal for the Philippines in 1996.

Velasco lost to Daniel Petrov in a controversial gold-medal bout.

“(Charly) Suarez has a big chance to win a gold medal because he is a veteran of many international tournaments,” Onyok told The Manila Times in a phone interview on Friday.
“[Rogen] Ladon, on the other hand, is new and nobody knows him but he can fight.”

“During our time, there were only few great amateur boxers. Vietnam and Chinese boxers were just good in the first round but they became more competitive now and they already won a gold in the Olympics,” he added. “But I’m confident our two boxers will win.”

Boxers have won the most number of medals for the Philippines in the Olympics, beginning with Jose Villanueva who beat Horace Lefty Gwynne for the silver medal in the 1932 Los Angeles Games.

Jose is the father of Anthony Villanueva who brought home the first Olympic silver medal for the country during the 1964 Tokyo Games. Anthony lost to Stanislav Stepashkin in the gold medal bout.

Roel Velasco, Onyok’s brother, also won a bronze medal in the 1992 Barcelona Games.

“They are potential Olympic medalists and they can even win the gold,” said the 47-year-old Velasco, who currently trains young amateur boxers in Baguio City. “They have the experience and they really worked hard to get there in Rio.”

In terms of technical skills, Velasco said Suarez and Ladon were both the “complete package.”

“I’m not worried because aside from their heart, our boxers have refined technical skills to be champions. I’m not worried because it could be their destiny to be a medalist. All of them are working so hard that’s why they qualified,” said Velasco.

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