Baku, Azerbaijan– The Philippines had wanted to get slots for the London Olympics at the AIBA World Boxing Championships here by winning medals, but the results from the round of 16 have taken away that option.
The PLDT-ABAP team will have to rely on fate to decide whether two available slots will come their way or not.
Both light-flyweight Mark Anthony Barriga and flyweight Rey Saludar lost their bids to land in the quarterfinals in the tournament which would have automatically earned for them a booking for the 2012 Olympiad.
The pint-sized Barriga took on the highly-touted Zou Shiming of China, 2-time world champion and Beijing Olympics gold medalist. At 18, Barriga gave up a lot in experience (not to mention height and reach) against the 30-year old veteran and it showed as the multi-titled Chinese prevailed, 12-5.
“He outsmarted me. He’s really good, very elusive and clever”, said Barriga. “But if I get another chance, I’ll be better prepared for him next time,” he pledged.
Saludar however, was the aggressor in the fight against Rau’Shee Warren of the United States. He also threw the more solid blows but the judges saw it differently and awarded the fight to the two-time American Olympian who is seeded 4th in the tournament.
Saludar drew blood from Warren’s nose in the second round which he banged with a wicked straight. The referee had to stop the fight a couple of times in the second and third rounds to wipe the blood off Warren’s nose.
Warren started off cocky, prancing around in Mayweartheresque fashion, using a lot of hand speed, the way he disposed of a Ukrainian boxer the day before. But he got on the wrong end of a power left hook by the Philippine Army man right in the first round that immediately made him take a more serious attitude.
He engaged the Filipino in exchanges hoping that the latter would back off. But Saludar took the challenge and the Philippine delegation thought he got the better of it. The scores however, were way off their estimation: 7-2 in the first, 16-8 in the second and finally, 22-12 all for Warren.
Delegation head Ed Picson said “it was exasperating. There were more than a dozen Filipino expats who came to watch the fight and asked us to explain the lopsided scores, I couldn’t. At worst I thought it was close. But this is sport and we have to accept the decision. if there had been a major anomaly, the jury would have overturned the decision.”
All is not lost for the country’s Olympic dreams, however. There will be 10 qualifiers in each category from this competition (except in the heavyweight and super-heavyweight; they get 6 each) . The eight quarter-finalists make up the bulk, while two slots go to the round of 16 losers to the eventual gold and silver medalists. Thus, if Zou and Warren enter the finals of the competition, Barriga and Saludar also book a ticket to London.
There will also be the Asian qualifiers in Kazakhstan next year where the Philippines can get slots. The number of qualifiers will depend on how many would be left of the Asian quota of 56 after the tournament here.(pr)