Last Chance For Philippines Boxers To Qualify

The Philippines has prepared a five-man boxing squad to the final Asian Olympic qualifying tournament in Kazakhstan this month amid dismay of a hopeful boxer to grab the country's first Olympic gold medal dropping out over injuries, sports officials said Monday. The Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (Abap) president Manny T. Lopez said the five men team, including Doha Asian Games medalist Joan Tipon, were picked up based on their performances in recent training. "Let us unite and pray for the success of the team. The boxers know their mission fully and they are determined to succeed."

Rogelio Fordaleza, secretary general of Abap, told Xinhua that the boxing team is leaving for Kazakhstan on Tuesday for preparation. Fordaleza said he hoped the Filipino athletes would win two qualification berths to make up for the Filipino boxers' poor performance in Thailand qualifying tournament earlier this year. The Philippines wishes to win the country's first Olympic goal medal in the Beijing Games this August, hopefully in boxing, where Filipino athletes were thought to hold competitive strengths. Two Cuban coaches were hired to better train Filipino boxers for the Olympic Games. However, only Harry Tanamor, who finished at the second place in 2007 World Amateur Boxing Championships in Chicago, had been qualified to compete in the Beijing Games so far.

The Kazakhstan qualifying, the second and final Asian Olympic qualifying slated from March 16 to 24, is seen as the last straw for Filipino boxers eyeing an Olympic goal. Altogether, there will be 19 qualification slots up for grabs. Only a few days ago, Abap announced that Violito Payla, the flyweight champion in the Doha Asian Games, would never make it to the Beijing Games because his left shoulder injury had prevented him from fighting at Kazakhstan qualifying.

Godfrey Castro, who fought as a light-flyweight in salvaging a bronze medal in 2006 Doha Games, had filled in Payla's space, Abap said. Local newspaper lamented that Payla's absence was a "big blow" to the country's Olympic goal pursuit. And even senior sports officials like William Ramirez, head of the Philippine Sports Commission, expressed uncertainty about the country's quest for a boxing goal in Beijing.

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