ABAP still optimistic Filipino boxers can bring home first Olympic gold medal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 30) – Olympic-bound boxers Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno have been idle for nearly three months already since punching their tickets to the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics.

With contact sports still prohibited under the current community quarantine, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a halt to their Olympic dream.

But despite losing steam, the Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines (ABAP) remains optimistic that the young boxers may just bring home the country’s first Olympic gold medal.

“Eumir has a 90% chance to bring home a medal and 80% chance to bring home the gold. That’s very good enough,” said ABAP President Ricky Vargas during the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association forum.

“Looking at the determination of Irish, she’s working very hard even during the pandemic, even online and because of that she has more than 50% chance of getting a medal,” he added.

Even with the pandemic, the young boxers remain steadfast in their trainings by holding daily online sessions under their coaches’ supervision.

The boxing federation, however, is hoping to get the green light from the Inter-Agency Task Force and Department of Health soon on the resumption of physical trainings or to at least grant exemptions for the Olympic-bound athletes.

"Training online is not the same. We need to be able to go back to the gym and really work and spar, and box with other boxers, not only here, but overseas as well," said Vargas.

ABAP Secretary-General Ed Picson says they’ve already submitted plans for certain drills and practices with the exemption of face-to-face trainings but getting the nod of the government would be their biggest boost.

“It’s really very challenging as of now unless those restrictions are relaxed,” bared Picson. “How can you maintain safe distancing when you’re inside the ring or if you’re doing punch mitts with your coach? Eh magkalapit kayo niyan. Mag-face mask ka ba? Ang hirap huminga. (They're close to each other. Will they wear face mask? It will be hard to breathe if it will be like that.)”

Meanwhile, the boxing federation is also confident that more boxers can clinch an Olympic berth once qualifying tournaments resume, describing them as a “bountiful crop.”

"Marami tayong hopefuls na pwede pang mag-qualify, (We have many hopefuls who can still qualify)" Vargas said. "I'm in touch with Nesthy (Petecio), and she's very eager to go for the qualification and to redeem herself. Carlo Paalam, Rogen Ladon, Ian Clark Bautista—may chance pa 'yan (they still have a chance) to qualify for the Olympics."

According to Picson, they’ve already received tournament invitations from Thailand and two European countries for September and October pending the global situation of the COVID-19 pandemic.