Professional boxers are welcome to join the national team, but the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines said they have to go through the regular selection process.
ABAP secretary-general Ed Picson, however, made it clear that they have not invited any boxer outside of their national training pool, pointing out that the national boxers “who has been training with us for a long time” will remain the priority.
Picson said they have yet to discuss and meet the national coaches when they start their national bubble training at the Philippine Sports Commission Training Center in Baguio City in November.
“Wala pa kaming pinag-uusapang ganu’n (tryout for professional boxers). And if ever, siguro ang priority would be the national boxers who have been training for years with ABAP,” said Picson.
The ABAP official added that even if they have to open slots for pro boxers, he made it clear that no one will be accorded special treatment.
“Unless talagang spectacular ‘yung pro. But he would still have to go through the process,” he said.
Former national mainstay and Olympian Charly Suarez, who turned pro early in 2019, came back to the national team and punched his way to the boxing’s lightweight gold medal in the 2019 Philippine Southeast Asian Games.
There were reports that he is again in talks with ABAP for him to compete in the 2021 Asian Games in China.
Some professional boxers have previously taken interest in trying out for the national team, including former World Boxing Organization Oriental Super Bantamweight champion Ali Laurel.
Professional boxers have been allowed to compete in amateur tournaments in the advent of the open boxing policy that started in 2016.
Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao came close to joining Team Philippines in the Rio Olympics in 2016, but for some reason, it did not materialize. Pacquiao was then a newly elected senator and his stringent schedule prevented him from training and donning the national jersey.
ABAP officials, back then, admitted having serious talks with Pacquiao as the country was still going for its first gold medal.
Lady weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who bagged a silver medal in Rio, eventually fulfilled the nation’s wish by winning the 56kg women’s weightlifting gold in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Boxing took three medals—two silvers courtesy of Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, and a bronze from Irish Magno.
The boxing gold, however, remained elusive for the Philippines.