Boxing to get first RP Olympic gold

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines vowed to give the country its first-ever Olympic gold medal come the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, China.

Manny Lopez, the feisty Abap president, made the bold prediction yesterday at the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum, which he said should serve as a big challenge to the Filipino pugs and Philippine boxing in general.

“With or without favor to be given to us, we will win our first Olympic gold medal in Beijing. I’m predicting that,” said Lopez, whose fiery remarks were met with a big round of applause by those present at the main function room of the Pantalan Restaurant in Manila.

“Pasensiya na po kayo kung ambisyoso kami. Pero wala tayong patutunguhan kung hindi tayo mag-aambisyon. And I think this will be a big challenge to us at Abap and our Filipino boxers. Kaya pabayaan ninyo na kaming mag-ambisyon,” said the youthful-looking Abap head and son of former Manila Mayor Mel Lopez.

Also present in the public sports program sponsored by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., Manila Mayor Lito Atienza and son Arnold “Ali” Atienza were Abap secretary-general Roger Fortaleza, national team head coach Pat Gaspi and Asian Games gold medalist and Olympic prospect Joan Tipon.

Lopez said the success of Tipon, fellow Asiad gold medal winner Violito Payla and the rest of the RP boxing team in Doha, Qatar last year made him feel good about the Filipinos’ chances of finally winning that elusive Olympic gold.

“Ito ang pakiramdam namin. The Asian Games has always been our gauge. When we won three gold medals in Hiroshima, Onyok Velasco almost bagged the gold two years after in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Now, following our good showing in Doha last year, we also feel the same way going to Beijing,” stressed Lopez, who is executive secretary of the International Amateur Boxing Association.

“Taas noo po yan. We will win our first gold in Beijing. Makakaasa po kayo that what we said today will be supported by action.”

Abap is looking to send at least eight Filipino boxers in different weight categories for the Beijing Games, or double than the four-member boxing team (Payla, Harry Tañamor, Chris Camat and Romeo Brin) that saw action in the Athens Olympics three years ago.

The Filipinos begin their bid for Olympic slots this September when the first of the three qualifying tournaments is held in Moscow, Russia.