PALEMBANG–The Philippine boxing team is already assured of at least one silver medal in the 26th Southeast Asian Games, even as the tournament is only set to begin at the Kampus Indoor Hall on Tuesday.
Some smart maneuvering by Filipino boxing officials, and a little luck in the draw gave bantamweight Nesthy Petecio a guaranteed runner-up finish in the 54-kg division.
19-year-old Davao del Sur native Petecio was initially the sole entry in the weight class before Thailand and Vietnam were convinced of sending representatives, according to Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines executive director Ed Picson.
But Monday’s draw saw Petecio receiving a first-round bye that will send her straight to the finals against the winner of the Thailand-Vietnam semifinal tiff.
“Madali naman ang kumbinsihan dahil na-realize agad ng ibang bansa na hindi sila ganu’ng kasing mahihirapan kung sasali sila sa 54 (kgs),” said Picson.
“At least sure silver na tayo doon,” he added.
Setting off the Philippine campaign is London Olympics-bound light-flyweight Mark Anthony Barriga, who tangles with Indonesian Denisius Hitahitirun in Tuesday’s opener. Also seeing action Tuesday is Delfin Boholst, who will face Thailand’s Apinchet Sanenset in the 69kg category.
Aside from Petecio’s silver, one thing Picson is sure of is that the Filipino boxers are bent on giving their all in the competition in an attempt to at least match their five-gold haul in the 2009 edition of the SEA Games in Laos.
“Iyon lang ang talagang maipapangako namin dahil there’s little more we can do,” explained Picson. “We’ve prepared them as best as we could and it’s now up to them.”
He declined to make any further predictions, though.
“Medyo matibay-tibay na ang team, pero hintayin na lang natin ang resulta dahil malalakas din naman ang mga kalaban,” said Picson.
Barriga qualified for next year’s London Games by landing the silver in the World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan last month.
2010 Asian Games gold medalist Rey Saludar is also entered here in his usual 52-kg category, along with Charlie Suarez, who will try to defend the featherweight gold he won in Laos. Also returning are women’s champions Josie Gabuco (46kg) and Alice Kate Aparri (48kgs).
Junel Cantancio (56kgs) and Dennis Galvan (64kgs) are the other entries in the men’s tourney while Analisa Cruz (51kgs) rounds out the women’s team.
Despite returning from an AIBA-imposed suspension from the international amateur boxing scene only a month before these games, Thailand is foremost among those Picson picked as main rivals of his team.
“Thailand has been absent for a year, but it did not stand idly by, sending its boxers for training to Europe, Cuba and Russia,” he said.
“We’re also not discounting the hosts and there’re also the Vietnamese and Laos boxers, based on their Laos performances,” he added.