Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III today stressed that overseas exposure for Filipino boxers would raise their competitive form and boost the country's medal chances in this sport when the Summer Olympics get underway in London later this year.
Pimentel, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Youth and Sports, picked the boxers as the Philippines' "most realistic and best hope" in its bid to win its first-ever gold medal in the quadrennial games.
"Filipino boxers should fight in top-caliber competitions overseas as part of the Philippines' Olympic preparation," Pimentel said.
"If our goal is to win the elusive gold medal, our boxers should get the training that is absolutely necessary to bolster their chances of meeting our people's collective aspiration," the senator said.
Pimentel encouraged the country's top sports leaders to "start talking less and doing more away from the glare of publicity" by accelerating the athletes' preparations for the London Games.
"Raise the bar of excellence, because the world's athletic standards are constantly getting better," Pimentel said.
"I believe in the indomitable will of our boxers to win this elusive honor. But we should give them the right exposure to polish their fighting form," he said.
Two scrappy Filipino boxers who campaigned a generation apart came closest to bringing home an Olympic gold medal.
Featherweight Anthony Villanueva narrowly lost on points to his Russian rival in the gold-medal match of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and flyweight Manuel "Onyok" Velasco dropped a heartbreaking loss in the division's gold-medal bout of the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Some ring experts and boxing pundits believed that both Filipinos appeared to have won their controversial fights.
For the London Games, only light flyweight Mark Anthony Barriga has qualified for the tough Olympic elimination matches after his stint in the World Championships last year in Azerbaijan.
Also gunning for Olympic slots in the men's side are eight other boxers in five weight categories--Rey Saludar (flyweight), Charley Suarez (lightweight), Joejin Ladon and Junel Cantancio (bantamweight), Orlando Tacuyan and Dennis Galvan (light welterweight) and Nathaniel Montealto and Wilfredo Lopez (welterweight).
Campaigning in the women's side are Kate Aparri, Josie Gabucco and Nesthy Petecio (light flyweight) and Janice Banares and Rica Aquino (lightweight). All boxers are scheduled to leave next month for overseas competitions.
Pimentel, meanwhile, lauded businessman Manny Pangilinan of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company and Smart Communications for taking the lead in extending support to the country's Olympic campaign.
The senator encouraged other sports patrons to help bankroll the financial needs of Filipino athletes in track and field, taekwondo, archery, shooting, swimming and weightlifting, among others.
Pimentel also appealed to officials of the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission to "get their act together for the sake of our athletes" and seek the cooperation of the heads of various national sports associations.
"The sports pages are a testament to bickering and protection of turf. It's time to show strength of character and dignity. Let's be united and become a shinning example of courage and commitment to all," Pimentel said.
Pimentel said Filipino athletes could overcome adversity and challenges if their sports leaders are "united in purpose, in spirit and in the mission to give the country its first gold medal."
"They should be all in it together. It should be a team and a country. That's the way sports should be," Pimentel said.
The Philippines first entered Olympic competition in 1924 in Paris Games and has, in 88 years, won two silver and seven bronze medals in 20 Olympic Games.
Filipino boxers have won the most Olympic medals with five, including two silver medals.
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