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Filipino Boxers Look to End Drought

By Eddie Alinea
RIO DE JANEIRO – Filipino boxers Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez crossed different paths Thursday following the official draw in the boxing competitions of the Rio Olympics.
The 22-year-old Ladon, ranked No. 5 in the light-flyweight division, drew a bye along with the other seeds, led by the top favorite from Cuba, reigning world champion Joahnys Argilagos.
Boxing competitions will start Aug. 6 at the Riocentro Convention Center here.
Ladon, silver medalist in the Asian Championships and bronze medalist in the World Championships in 2015, will have three more days to prepare for his Olympic debut.
On Aug. 8, Ladon, of Bago City in Negros Occidental, will face either Yurberjen Herney Martinez of Colombia or Patrick Lourenco of the host country.
“Naka-bye tayo sa first round. So, Brazil or Colombia ang unang laban ni Ladon.,” said Philippine boxing team head coach Nolito Velasco.
There are only 22 entries in the 49 kg class, and with the bye, it means that Ladon must only win two bouts to get to the semis and assure himself of a bronze.
If that happens, he will break the 20-year medal drought for the Philippines in the Olympics, and give himself a chance at reaching the finals.
Another boxer, light-flyweight Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco, won the last Olympic medal for the Philippines, a silver during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
“Maganda na din ang draw ni Ladon,” said Velasco. “At kung makakalaban man natin yung Cuba, sa semis na. May medal by that time.”
Suarez, the senior member of the Philippine team, is not ranked in the 60 kg division, and will have to face reigning European champion Joseph Cordina on Aug. 6.
The 27-year-old Suarez would need three wins to get to the semis and assure himself of a medal in his first Olympics.
Cordina, who is three years younger, will test Suarez at 6 p.m. Saturday or barely 24 hours after the opening ceremony.
Because the opening may finish late at night, Suarez has decided to skip the opening ceremony so he could save his energy for the fight the day after.
If Suarez moves on, he may have to deal with Cuban top seed Jorge Lazaro Alvarez in the semifinals of the 60 kg division.
“Mabibigat lahat ang nasa division ni Charly. Pero hindi naman baguhan si Charly,” said Velasco. He said due to more entries, only the top two seeds drew byes in opening round.
“Maganda na din makalaban yung magaling para pag nalusutan mo, mas maganda na chance mo. Nasa boxer na yan. Kung sino ang mas preparaado, yun ang lalabasan ng galing,” he said.