By Ludwig O. Daza
The truism that you have to remove a Filipino from his native land to excel can also be true to boxing. Filipino professionals abroad are known to excel in their own field of expertise, especially nurses. Similarly, Filipino boxers only become good boxers when exposed to training regimen abroad with foreign coaches.
Why is that? Could it be the coaches? Is it the discipline (or lack of it) of boxers? Is it the limited pipelines from which a pool of amateur boxers can be created and where the boxing body can separate the grain from the chaff? Is it corruption? Or maybe the grassroots approach is not that systematic? Or maybe the boxing authorities have been looking the wrong way that our country has not produced an Olympic medal in boxing since Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco snared a silver medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games.
It has to be corruption coupled with the wrong approach. If we can address these two concerns, there is no reason why we shall remain empty handed every time an Olympic event is held?
Hidilyn Diaz is an outlier. Manny Pacquiao is an outlier. Despite overwhelming odds they persevere. But we cannot afford waiting for another outlier. If we can fix the system, it will result to a steady stream of medals. Manny and Hidilyn came from the boondocks and conquered the world. There must be something in there that makes you want to prove something. And by all means, we have to start from the barrios.
For so long a time we’ve been enamored with events that do not suit our physicality, pouring money and wasting it to a lost cause. While Hidilyn was weightlifting her way to Rio Olympics in a rundown gym, our basketball team composed of fat-salaried dribblers were practicing abroad with amenities that Hidilyn can only dreamed of. Height is might in basketball so they say. They will always be measured, and then found lacking, always.
Sports gods need to re-direct resources. Overhaul of the whole process is needed, not just a make-over approach. We need to concentrate on events that suit our agility and determination: Boxing, tennis, soccer football, archery, swimming etc. Alas, we have plenty of house helps that can inspire a budding swimmer to be the next Joseph Schooling.
Boxing is an event where Filipinos can match the gold haul of any country, including the United States. If one of the boxing greats hails from the Philippines, I am still confounded by the fact that our amateur boxers are just that, amateurs.
You have to have talent in boxing to be great. Talent alone will not make one great, but it’s the start. It is the Holy Grail to boxing stardom. Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali are all talented. The likes of them can also be found here. We just lack the wherewithal and proper approach to ferret them out.
I know a talent when I see one and our competitors in Rio were just ordinary. One thing I observed with our boxers is their fixation to ending the fight with a knockout. Recent subject is Roger Ladon who definitely lacks talent. It is so obvious from the get go that he doesn’t have it. As always and like the rest, he was plodding with punches – whatever happened to the sweet science? And then there was Dusmatov of Uzbekistan, and boy he was slick and quick; the talent was obvious from the very first exchanges of punches.
If we want Olympic gold medals, we need to put importance on the over-all talent. The prospects need to have footwork – so it’s a must that he knows how to play basketball or tennis or soccer football; he needs to be slick in his movements. We need to put premium on short punches that scores rather than bad intention long punches that seldom hit the marks. In short, we need boxers that are slick and with superb stamina more than we need power puncher that usually are slow and easily tires.