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Opinion

Wanted: Sparring partners

We are thinking of ways on how to bring in sparring partners inside the bubble.

Nick Giongco

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If you think the national boxing team has cleared a major hurdle in its bid to return to training, think again.

While authorities have agreed to give select national athletes and their coaches to set up camp at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna, it doesn’t mean everything’s going to be smooth sailing.

Yeah, the likes of Carlo Paalam, Rogen Ladon, Ian Clark Bautista, Charly Suarez, James Palicte and top female fighters Irish Magno and Nesthy Petecio, are going to be showing up one by one.

But have you ever wondered how they are going to address the issue of sparring?

I got on the phone with national team head coach Pat Gaspi and the former national team standout admitted that while the coaches will now be supervising the workouts, there is still one major issue that needs to be addressed.

“We are thinking of ways on how to bring in sparring partners inside the bubble,” Gaspi said.

Unlike during the pre-pandemic era, Gaspi and the coaching staff had a free hand in recruiting sparmates — local professional boxers and foreign amateurs — into their facilities to train alongside the Filipinos.

With the pandemic still raging, things have drastically changed.

If the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) attempts to fulfill the need of sparring, the boxing bosses have to raise the issue with the Inter-Agency Task Force.

You see, entering the Laguna bubble will entail a lot of work.

“Before we are allowed to travel to Manila to get ready for the bubble, we have to undergo a swab test,” Gaspi said.

The hassle doesn’t end there.

Gaspi said they are all going to be tested again there before getting the green light to enter.

So, you could just imagine the legwork and requirements that have to be met assuming the ABAP floats the idea of hiring sparmates.

Still, Gaspi swears the Laguna bubble is far better than the current situation.

“At least, the boxers will be watched by their coaches unlike before when they trained all by themselves online,” he said.

But sooner or later, boxers have to do sparring and it is not advisable that they spar against each other for the duration of training camp.

Which now brings us to Eumir Marcial, the power-punching middleweight who is now in the United States getting ready to fight for the second time as a pro.

Marcial, according to Gaspi, is better off staying put in America where he will have no problem getting solid sparring.

Marcial will soon show up for training at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card as he revs up for the Tokyo Olympics after being given a tour of select spots.

By the time he and Roach join hands anew, he won’t worry about the quality of work he’ll get.

Fortunately for Marcial, his decision to leave was a wise choice.

At least, he won’t be starting from scratch unlike his national team pals.

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