Boxing hero calls it quits

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — ONE of the country’s boxing heroes and former bet for a breakthrough gold medal in the Olympics has decided to finally hang up his gloves.

A recurring rotator calf injury on his left shoulder forced Asian Games gold medalist Violito Payla to call it quits in a sport that has been so good to him.

The flyweight boxer from Cagayan de Oro has been inactive since last year when he when he tore a tendon on his left shoulder while training in Baguio City for the final Asian Olympic qualifying tournament in Kazakhstan.

But former Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP) president Manny Lopez believes the damaged shoulder could have been incurred as early as the AIBA World Boxing Championship in Chicago two years ago.

Lopez noted the 29-year old former Olympian has never been the same after that stint.

“Alam mo naman ang mga boksingero hangga’t maaari iindahin nila ang sakit basta makalaban lang,” Lopez said a day after New Year.

Obviously, the wear and tear of the sports finally caught up with Payla, who began boxing for the national team at an early age.

Prior to retiring, he is considered one of the oldest in the national pool and was one of two active members remaining from the boxing team that saw action in the 2004 Athens Olympics together with Harry Tanamor.

“Upon the advice of the doctors, kailangan talaga mag-retire na siya,” said Lopez, now the ABP vice-president.

Along with bantamweight Joan Tipon, Payla emerged as the country’s best prospect for a first ever Olympic gold in the Beijing Games after emerging flyweight champion in the 2006 Asiad in Doha, Qatar.

In the gold medal match, the Filipino beat 2003 world champion Somjit Jongjohor of Thailand, the same man who eventually won the gold in the same division during the Beijing Olympics.

“Nanghihinayang talaga ako sa boksingero na yan dahil talagang malaki sana ang tsansa niya na manalo ng ginto sa Olympics. Yung mismong Thai boxer (Somjit) na naka-gold sa Beijing, yun ang tinalo niya for the gold sa Doha,” Lopez said.

It even saddened the long-time boxing official that Payla will finally have to retire from active duty.

“Nakakalungkot dahil mawawalan tayo ng beteranong boksingero, isang de-kalibreng atleta,” said Lopez.

The good thing about it is that ABAP has a lot of potential boxers ready to fill up the vacuum to be left out by Payla.

Lopez mentioned the likes of Rey Saludar and Godfrey Castro as among the rising Filipino bets in the 51-kg. class.

At the moment, Payla is helping train and prepare members of the RP boxing team, although he’s not been officially named part of the coaching staff headed by former national Pat Gaspi.

“Tumutulong siya na mag-coach sa ngayon pero hindi pa naman official,” Lopez said.

Meanwhile, Tipon and Tanamor will continue to fight for slots in the national team this year.

Tipon vowed to regain the same form that won for him the gold medal in the 54-kg division of the Doha Asiad where he upset fancied Worapoj Petchkoom of Thailand in the semis and beat Han Soon Chul of Korea in the final.

But he never got to maintain in shape after that Asian Games triumph and twice failed in his attempt for an Olympic qualifying berth, both losses coming at the hands of Petchkoom in the World Boxing Championships and the 1st Asian Olympic qualifying tournament in Bangkok.

“Nangako siya na he’ll get back in shape ngayong taon,” said Lopez of the 26-year old native of Negros Occidental.

Tanamor on the other hand, has been inspired by his victory in the recent World Cup in Moscow where he beat Cuban Yampier Hernandez in the light-flyweight final.

“Medyo nakabawi si Harry kaya gusto pa ring mag-boxing,” Lopez said of the veteran boxer who both muffed his shot at an Olympic medal in the Athens and Beijing Games.