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Hanging in limbo

Ian Suyu

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EUMIR Marcial (left) has yet to formally start his Olympic training. BAY ISMOYO/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines (ABAP) admitted that it has yet to formally plot the training program of Eumir Marcial for the Tokyo Olympics next year.

ABAP president Ricky Vargas said his looming professional contract and the outbreak of the novel coronavirus have greatly affected his training program, which aims to focus on becoming the first Filipino to win a gold medal in the Summer Games.

Despite the pandemic, the training of the country’s elite athletes is in full swing.

Olympian EJ Obiena is training in at the International Athletic Association Federation training center in Formia in Italy while Carlos Yulo is sharpening his skills in Tokyo under the guidance of Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya.

Even Olympic aspirants like Hidilyn Diaz, Yuka Saso, Kiyomi Watanabe, Mariya Takahashi, Kristina Knott, William Morrison, Natalie Uy and Eric Cray are also training abroad in preparation for various Olympic qualifying tournaments.

Marcial, for his part, is just at home in Imus, Cavite and reportedly spending time growing vegetables like eggplant, bitter gourd and bottle gourd while waiting to sign a professional contract and a training program from the boxing federation.

“There are many discussions going on in terms of training for Eumir,” Vargas said during the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum backed by San Miguel Corporation, Go For Gold, Amelie Hotel, Braska Restaurant and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and powered by Smart.

“His request before was to train with current coaching staff that helped him even before. We are open to giving him that kind of training.”

But Vargas admitted that things suddenly became complicated when the possibility of signing a professional contract loomed.

Reports have it that Marcial is nearing a deal with MP Promotions, the outfit that handles the careers of Filipino world champions like Johnriel Casimero, Jerwin Ancajas, Pedro Taduran and, of course, Manny Pacquiao.

“I think what’s important is what will be stated in his contract as a professional boxer: Will he be allowed to train as an amateur or as a professional?” Vargas said in an online forum also graced by ABAP secretary general Ed Picson.

“If the contract says that he will be allowed to train and compete as an amateur and will be with the best amateur fighters in the world, then that would be very helpful to us.”

Picson admitted that Marcial and other boxers are now limited to online training.

“Training online is not the same,” he said.

“We need to be able to go back to the gym to spar and box, not only here, but overseas as well.”

With no definite program in place, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) offered support in handling his training.

Sports commissioner Ramon Fernandez said they are set to assemble a “Team Marcial,” or a group of nutritionist, masseuse, sports psychologist, physical therapists and boxing coaches that will take charge in his training. The composition of the team will be finalized in the coming days.

Vargas said the only sure thing at this point is that they are willing to send Marcial to train abroad.

Still, it would depend on the global health situation.

“We want him to train both as a professional and amateur fighter in order to fight the best boxers in countries that are very competitive in his weight class. And definitely, it’s not in the Philippines,” Vargas said without mentioning what country they are eyeing to send Marcial and his fellow Olympian Irish Magno.

“Definitely it’s going to be outside the country. The only problem is that we cannot make those arrangements because of these restrictions.”

Vargas said despite the delay in training, their hopes on Marcial emerging as the first Filipino Olympic gold medalist remain high.

“Eumir could be the first Olympic gold medalist that we are looking at if he gets enough training and if he keeps it up,” Vargas said.

“We are actually happy because he is very much focused towards the Tokyo Games; and that is what really important.”

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