WE can understand the obvious disillusionment of ABAP president Ricky Vargas over the ouster of our two Rio de Janeiro Olympic boxing hopefuls lightweight Charly Suarez and light flyweight Rogen Ladon, who were both ousted in their very first encounter.
Suarez dropped a split decision to European champion and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Joe Cordina, who lost his very next bout and was also ousted, while Ladon reportedly looked sluggish and faded badly in his clash with Colombia’s Yuberjen Martinez who won a unanimous decision and advanced to the quarter finals last Monday night.
The disappointment of not qualifying an expected five boxers to Rio was compounded by the failure of Suarez and Ladon to move beyond the first round of competition, even after Ladon, who was seeded No. 5 drew a bye.
An obviously distraught Vargas, an esteemed friend, sent us a text not long after the last man standing on whom we had pinned much of our collective hopes faltered badly.
In his text message, the ABAP president told us, “Maybe it’s time for new leadership partner. Time to go for me.”
In a subsequent text message to ABAP executive director Ed Picson in Rio, which Vargas forwarded to us, he mentioned being “so downhearted,” which was to be expected and told Picson he would talk to him the following day and suggested
“Let us offer the presidency (of ABAP) to Manny Pacquiao, the newly elected senator and eight-division world boxing champion.”
Vargas requested Picson to arrange for him to meet with Pacquiao on Ed’s return from the Olympics.
I personally sensed that Vargas was peeved that we had publicized his tweets because he told us later that he had been besieged by calls from media asking him to comment on our story and sounded upset.
He subsequently issued an official statement, in which he said: “We need new leadership to refresh ABAP and inspire our pipeline of next generation boxers in our pool.”
He went on, “We did our best and now it is time to turn the baton over after 8 years of leadership. We had our share of success in the Southeast Asian Games, the Asian Games and World Championships, but of course the standard is the Olympics and we have been unsuccessful there.”
Vargas revealed that when Picson returns from Rio, he and secretary general Patrick Gregorio will call for the 2016 ABAP elections at the soonest possible time and concluded by thanking Chairman Manny Pangilinan and the entire Filipino nation for their support of boxing.
While we know Senator Manny Pacquiao is loaded with his work in the Senate, where he is striving to erase the negative image of the past when he attended sessions in the House of Representatives only four times as congressman from the lone district of Sarangani Province. Should he agree to be elected ABAP president, it would be a major boost because Manny can inspire and with the new thrust of AIBA to pattern boxing along the parameters of the professional fight game with no headgear, the 10-point must scoring system, the ultimate tabulation of the scores of three judges from among five picked by a computer all closely correspond to the pro set-up.
We watched the Olympic fights and realized most importantly that our boxers were not in the physical condition of their opponents, particularly in the case of Ladon. It showed a lack of roadwork which Manny always does and the absence of a sound physical conditioning program similar to what American Nick Curson has provided Donnie Nietes, the longest-reigning Filipino world champion.
ABAP needs modern-day trainers more adept at the fighting style of the pros and not old-school amateurs, who have passed their prime.
It is also important that if Pacquiao accepts the offer to take over as ABAP president, he should not be allowed to bring along some of the members of his entourage, whose love for what they can get out of the sport—and Manny—overrides what they are ready to give back to the sport.
It’s a tough task ahead of ABAP but we need to start the resurgence right now with the initial target being the Southeast Asian Games, the Asian Games and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
No doubt we have the talent. All we need to do is harness it and maximize its potential for, after all, if we can have four world professional boxing champions as of now, why should we fail in the Olympics?