JANUARY 30, 2007
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP) secretary-general Roger Fortaleza said the other day no fighter is seeded in the national pool and tryouts will begin all over again to choose the country’s representatives at the World Championships in Russia this November and the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Thailand in December.

There are 12 international competitions lined up for the ABAP hopefuls this year. First on tap is a tournament in Germany on March 25-30.

The focus is clearly to determine the best fighters to carry the country’s colors at the 2008 Beijing Olympics where ABAP president Manny Lopez hopes the quest for the first Filipino gold medalist will finally end.

The World Championships will be the first Olympic qualifying event with all medalists assured of slots in Beijing. Two other qualifiers will be held in 2008, one of them in Manila.

Fortaleza said 22 male and six female fighters are now training in Baguio with 10 coaches supervising the workouts. Among the coaches are Pat Gaspi, Boy Velasco, Leopoldo Cantancio and Elias Recaido. The males are composed of 10 in the first-level pool and 12 in the second-level training team. Six other females in the pool are training in Manila with coach Roel Velasco.

Fortaleza said SEA Games gold medalist Harry Tanamor is back in training in Baguio after he was axed from the national team that went to Doha for the Asian Games last year.

Tanamor, a shoo-in for a gold in Doha, went AWOL in the run-up to the Asian Games. He skipped a local Go For Gold event and also didn’t show up in the airport for a trip to Finland where he was booked to fight in the Tanner Cup, wasting a $100,000 airplane ticket.

Fortaleza said before the Asian Games, Tanamor appeared to be battling a family problem and he even arranged for counseling with a sports psychologist. Tanamor, however, was a no-show for the appointment with the psychologist.

Despite his solid credentials, Tanamor was dropped from the national squad to Doha. His replacement Godfrey Castro brought home a bronze, an indication of the depth of the country’s pool.

Fortaleza said Tanamor has as much of a chance to qualify for Beijing as any other fighter in the pool which includes Asian Games gold medalists Violito Payla and Joan Tipon. "They’re all back to zero so we’re starting from scratch," said Fortaleza.

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Based on the games played in the Doha Asian Games last December, the consensus is the national basketball team coached by Chot Reyes would’ve made it to the finals and brought home at least a silver medal. China, playing without Yao Ming, went unbeaten in clinching the gold medal with host Qatar in second place. Iran wound up third and Jordan, fourth.

But Reyes said yesterday the public shouldn’t expect too much from the national cagers once they’re finally allowed to play in international tournaments again.

"I agree with Attorney (Rudy) Salud who commented that fans shouldn’t expect the national team to beat everyone in sight once our suspension is lifted," said Reyes. "Still, you can be sure we’ll fight to the end, no matter what."

Salud’s opinion was a welcome note in light of news that the country’s suspension may soon be lifted by FIBA (Federation Internationale de Basketball). It eased the pressure on Reyes and challenged the national team to prove its ability to compete at a high level.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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