MANILA, Philippines -- For the Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines (ABAP), the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics was a disappointing -- albeit understandable -- development.
Two Filipinos were already assured of berths to the Olympic Games, with at least four more also hoping to qualify, when sports ground to a halt due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japan took the unprecedented step of postponing the Summer Games to 2021 because of the global health crisis.
ABAP president Ricky Vargas acknowledged that Filipino boxers "lost steam" because of the postponement. Qualifiers Irish Magno and Eumir Marcial were ready to compete, he said, and their other boxers also had solid chances of securing their tickets.
One more reason that Vargas was saddened by the postponement was that he genuinely believed that the Filipino boxers had a strong chance to reach the Olympic podium for the first time since 1996.
"Maybe this is the first time that I will mention it, and I don't mention it, I don't brag about it," Vargas said during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday. "We know we have the boxers to qualify this Olympics, and we have a chance to win."
"I think Eumir has a 90% chance to bring home a medal, and an 80% chance to bring the gold," he revealed. "That's good enough. That's very good enough."
No Filipino boxer has medaled at the Olympics since Mansueto "Onyok" Velasco claimed the silver in light flyweight in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
But Marcial, who was a silver medalist in the AIBA World Championships last year and a gold medalist in the Asia-Oceania qualifiers this year, is expected to be a strong contender in the middleweight division.
Vargas also believes that Magno can make waves in the women's flyweight division.
"Looking at the determination of Irish, I know she has a more than 50% chance of getting a medal," he said.
World champion Nesthy Petecio may have failed at the qualifiers last March, but Vargas is confident that she would have redeemed herself in the world Olympic qualifying tournament in Paris. That competition has since been postponed because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
"Nakausap ko si Nesthy," he said. "'Pag nasaktan 'yan, her heart is into it. I know when I talked to her, her heart is into it."
"Sayang," Vargas admitted. "I don't think in ABAP's history, we have this number of boxers that could make it -- qualify to the Olympics and have a chance to win a medal in the Olympics. Sayang, sayang."
Vargas remains optimistic that their boxers will have an impact in next year's Olympics -- if it pushes through, that is.
A recent poll by Japanese media revealed that over half of Tokyo's residents don't think that the Olympics should be held in 2021, preferring another postponement or even an outright cancellation.
"It's very sad kung hindi matuloy ang Olympics," Vargas said. "Tough decision, very tough decision. The IOC, I've been reading, is having a difficult time because of all the investments that's been put in by Tokyo and the Japanese government, in preparation."
"Masyadong malungkot 'pag hindi matuloy."
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