THE COUNTRY is assured of at least two boxers competing in the rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021 but the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) is confident more could be added to that number once qualifying tournaments resume.

Served as guests on Tuesday’s online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum, ABAP President Ricky Vargas and Secretary-General Ed Picson said that they have a rich crop of boxers who are capable of qualifying for the Summer Games and join already-qualified Eumir Felix Marcial (welterweight) and Irish Magno (women’s flyweight).

The ABAP officials named world boxing champion Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam, Rogen Ladon and Ian Clark Bautista as some of the fighters with strong chances to book a spot in the Olympics, which was unfortunately pushed back to next year because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We have a rich crop of boxers who nearly qualified in previous qualifying tournaments. They are working as hard as they can and we are confident they can qualify,” said Mr. Vargas, also the chairman of the Philippine Basketball Association.

With COVID-19 still a concern in the country, Mr. Picson said training has been a challenging one for the Filipino boxers but they are finding ways to make things happen, primarily online for now.

“Currently, on the lead of Australian coach Don Abnett and the rest of the coaching staff, the athletes are training arduously online. It’s different but they are making it happen,” said Mr. Picson.

The ABAP officials expressed hope that current quarantine restrictions be eased soon so that national boxers can resume with their normal training, or for them to be at least granted exemptions to train for the Olympics under needed health and safety protocols. “It’s not the same doing things online. We lost steam [in preparations] and we have to go back to the gym,” said Mr. Vargas.

Messrs. Vargas and Picson said they are also looking at fielding some of the country’s boxers in various tournaments abroad later this year and early 2021 to jack up their preparations for the Olympics.

Meanwhile, Mr. Vargas said they are very high on the chances of Mr. Marcial and Ms. Magno, owing to the commitment the boxers are showing in training and determination to succeed.

Both boxers earned their tickets to the Olympics last March at the 2020 Asia and Oceania Olympic boxing qualifiers in Amman, Jordan.

Mr. Marcial, the ABAP president said, has shown great commitment to see his Olympic dreams through despite his decision to turn professional, although still unsigned, while Ms. Magno is training very hard and is not content on just making it to the Olympics but bringing home a medal.

“I really hope that the Olympics push through next year because we have a good set of boxers who can deliver,” said Mr. Vargas.

“Eumir has a 90% chance of winning a medal and 80% winning a gold while Irish has more than 50% chances of bringing home a medal,” he added.

In the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, the Philippines had two boxer representatives in Mr. Ladon and Charly Suarez. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo