The ultimate goal of Philippine sports at the moment is to win its very first Olympic gold medal.
If we are to draft a strategy for achieving that goal, we should base our plan not on wild guesses but on solid empirical evidence. And what does empirical data reveal?
Of the nine medals we’ve won in the Olympics, five are from boxing; Jose Villanueva won bronze in the1932 Los Angeles Games, Anthony Villanueva won silver in 1964 in Tokyo, Leopoldo Serrantes won bronze in 1988 in Seoul, Roel Velasco won bronze in 1992 in Barcelona and Mansueto Velasco won silver in 1996 in Atlanta. Our boxers are so close to achieving the goal.
Adding to that, we have eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao, one of the best boxers the world has ever known, plus a slew of other Filipino world champions.
Filipinos took boxing like ducks to water the moment they’ve learned the sport from the Americans.
A remark by Frank Churchill, one of the earliest boxing promoters in the Philippines published in the article “The Origins of Philippine Boxing, 1899-1929” By Joseph R. Svinth (Journal of Combative Sport, July 2001), reads, “There were a great many ambitious Filipino lads who craved ring glory, even at the expense of a broken beezer or a vegetable ear. These boys would storm the club on Wednesday night, begging for a chance to go on. Many of them didn’t have money enough to buy an outfit of ring togs, so we always kept a supply of trunks, shoes, etc., available for them. Lots of ‘em wouldn’t use shoes. They were accustomed to going barefoot and shoes cramped their style.”
Another testament to the Filipinos’ great skill in boxing is the invention of the technique called the “bolo punch.”
The creation of the bolo punch was attributed to Filipino world boxing champion Ceferino Garcia, a native of Naval, Biliran who won the world middleweight title in 1939. The cover of the September 1939 issue of The Ring Magazine shows a painting of the Filipino fighter with the following caption: “Ceferino Garcia, Filipino Middleweight Contender and Master of the Bolo Punch.”
Garcia, who in his youth cut sugarcane in his native province, employed the same upward diagonal cutting motion of the bolo in creating the bolo punch.
If boxing is the key to securing the elusive Olympic gold, then the Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines (ABAP) should receive all the help it can get. The ABAP became one of the most well funded National Sports Associations in the country recently because of the support of business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan.
But the government should see to it that ABAP came up with a sustained grassroots development program for amateur boxing that would ensure the highest caliber of training for boxers. This must guarantee the athletes’ constant exposure to local, regional and international competitions.
Another safeguard that must be installed should ensure the continuation of the program despite changes in leadership. We must never change what works.
The government must also make the pursuit of amateur boxing more financially rewarding to attract new talents to the sport. The reason why many talented amateur boxers are eager to turn professional is because professional boxing is more financially lucrative than its amateur counterpart.
If we intend to win our very first gold medal in the 2016 or 2020 Games, then we should really devote all our attention to our amateur boxing program now.