OLYMPIC silver medalist Nesthy Petecio — PHILSTAR FILE PHOTO

THE Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) is “cautiously optimistic” as its 10-strong contingent defends its overall crown in the Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) against perennial rival Thailand and vastly-improved host Vietnam.

“We are proceeding with a lot of enthusiasm and focus hoping that we can maintain the same kind of excellence that we showed in Manila three years ago,” ABAP president Ed Picson said during Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum.

The ABAP has assembled a crack team bannered by Tokyo Olympics medalists Nesthy A. Petecio and Eumir Felix D. Marcial in this mission to retain supremacy in the SEAG after snaring seven golds, three silvers and two bronzes on home soil.

Rio Olympian Rogen Ladon (52kgs), Ian Clark Bautista (57kgs), and Marjon Pianar (69 kgs) join Mr. Marcial (75kgs) in the men’s hostilities while Ms. Petecio (60kgs) is with Josie Gabuco (48kgs), Irish Magno (51kgs), Risa Pasuit (57kgs), and Hergie Bacyadan (75kgs) in the distaff side.

The boxing team is hoping it has prepared well enough for the May 12 to 23 Games amid the less-than-ideal buildup to the pandemic. The boxers went to Thailand for training camp and tournament to get themselves ready.

“We’re cautiously optimistic. We would have wanted a more stringent preparation, but we have to work with what we have. The quality of preparation that we’re getting in Thailand is excellent and we hope that will make up for whatever shortcomings we’ve experienced in the prior months,” said Mr. Picson.

Thailand, which collected five golds, two silvers and two bronzes in the Manila SEAG, and Vietnam, which netted one gold, five silvers and two bronzes last time, loom as the toughest rivals.

“We’re always looking at Thailand but we’re casting a wary eye as well on Vietnam, which has improved tremendously and they’re also the host,” Mr. Picson said in the forum where he was joined by secretary-general Marcus Manalo.

“And countries like Cambodia and Indonesia, even Malaysia, we can’t discount them. They’ve also been preparing and like I said, our overall preparations have not been optimal so we’re also working on that handicap, hindi katulad before na talagang todo-todo ang preparations.” — Olmin Leyba