CEBU CITY (PhilAmPress) — After four straight Olympics without a medal, Nonito Donaire Sr. has expressed hope the Philippines boxing team will end four-Olympic medal drought in Rio de Jainero, Brazil in August this year.
Actually, Filipino Americans have won Olympic gold medals starting with Victoria Manalo Draves of San Francisco, California whose father was a Filipino who copped two golds in the London Olympics and the winningest woman Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin of Vallejo, California whose mother is a Filipino from Cavite. Coughlin has over a dozen of gold, silver and bronze medals in swimming won in at least three Olympic Games.
Donaire, who was tapped by the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP), trained his son and namesake, World Boxing Organization (WBO) super bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr. during his amateur days.
“We have a huge chance, but they should train really hard because winning in the Olympics isn’t easy. All the experienced fighters are there,” Donaire Sr. said.
Amateur boxing has changed since the last Olympics, with Aiba — boxing’s world governing body, adopting the pro’s 10-point scoring system. Fighters also no longer wear any head gear, just like in the pros.
The Philippines is pinning its medal hopes on Charly Suarez and Rogen Ladon, the only two fighters who qualified to the Rio Olympics on Aug. 5 to 21.
“They have to fight smart and not just rely on their brute strength. They have to combine speed, intelligence and power inside the ring,” said Donaire Sr. “That’s the key in winning in the Olympics.”
Though AIBA this year has decided to invite professional fighters in the Olympics, no Filipino pro fighter has expressed interest in joining the Olympics.
Filipino boxing icon and Senator Manny Pacquiao has been invited by Aiba but declined the offer, choosing instead to concentrate on his work as a senator.
Ladon and Suarez are training at the Top Rank Gym in Las Vegas to prepare for the Olympics. The two earned their slots during the Asian-Oceana Olympic qualfiers last March.
The Philippines has not won an Olympic medal since Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco controversially lost in the final to Bulgarian Daniel Petrov in the 1996 Olympics.
An Olympic gold is now worth P10 million after Congress approved a bill increasing the incentive from P5 million in 2015. It was signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III only in November last year.