For the Philippine boxing team to have a solid chance of medaling in the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, it needs more than just two qualifiers.
While middleweight Eumir Marcial is one of the top favorites, Irish Magno barely made the Olympic grade during the Amman qualifiers last March, needing a box-off among quarterfinal round losers to secure her place.
As Marcial’s buildup for Tokyo stepped up a notch after deciding to turn professional under Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach in Los Angeles, Magno’s own preparation has yet to make progress.
Holed up in his native Iloilo the past few months, Magno had earlier expressed to be sent overseas to train since the pandemic has prevented her from training the right away.
With Marcial victorious in his pro debut last 16 December, Magno is hopeful that things change for the better since the Olympic Games is just seven months away.
But with the recent approval of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases to allow select national athletes to train under a bubble setup, Magno is now amenable to train on local soil.
Aside from Marcial and Magno, the country is also wishing and praying that another top bet, world champion featherweight Nesthy Petecio joins them eventually.
Petecio was also in Amman, but the bemedalled Davao puncher was ambushed early in the slugfest and will attempt to qualify when Paris stages the World Qualifying in June.
Petecio isn’t the only hopeful vying in France.
Also bidding to bag berths for the 23 July to 9 August Tokyo Games are male flyweight Carlo Paalam, bantamweight Ian Clark Bautista and lightweight James Palicte.
There are also talks about recalling old warhorse Charly Suarez, now a pro like Marcial, to help in the campaign to qualify.
But it is not clear if he can be allowed to join the Paris slugfest since Suarez, who saw action and got eliminated early in the 2016 Rio Games, didn’t compete during the regional qualifiers in Jordan.
Still, Suarez insists there are no complications as he is all set to lend a hand in the quest to qualify and campaign in the 57-kilogram category in place of Bautista.
And now that authorities have given the go-signal for the resumption of training at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna, it is time for Magno and company to go the extra mile in their respective training stints.
Boxing officials should also take into account that it is simply unacceptable to see just two fighters bidding to win a medal in Tokyo owing to the Philippines’ storied love affair with the sport.
They should also remember that boxing accounts for five of the ten Olympic medals the Philippines has brought home, including silvers by Anthony Villanueva in 1964 (Tokyo) and Onyok Velasco in 1996 (Atlanta).
And that presently, there are four reigning Filipino world champions and several on the cusp of joining the elite roster composed of Manny Pacquiao, John Riel Casimero, Jerwin Ancajas and Pedro Taduran.
And that the first Asian world boxing champion was Pancho Villa.
And that it would be truly heartbreaking if Philippine boxing goes home empty-handed for the sixth straight time stretching back to Sydney twenty years ago.