Ian Clark Bautista and Mario Fernandez have nothing to prove on the Southeast Asian level.
But the two amateur boxers are just as determined to add to their collection of accolades when they defend their respective titles in the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur next month.
Bautista and Fernandez won 2 of the 5 gold medals that guaranteed the country’s overall championship in boxing in the 2015 Games in Singapore.
Bautista said he and Fernandez are ready to compete.
“Maganda naman ang preparation namin. Nanggaling kami sa China at nag-training kami doon ng more than 2 weeks. Mga Chinese po ang ka-training namin, may kasama ng mga taga Kazakhstan at Korea,” said the 22-year-old Bautista, who outsmarted Singapore’s Mohamed Hanurdeen Hamid in the Singapore SEA Games finals in the flyweight class.
For 24-year-old Fernandez, a 2-time SEA Games gold medalist, the pressure is on him and his teammates to deliver once again. They know that 2013 SEA Games champion Thailand will look to rebound from its 3rd-place finish in 2015.
“’Di lang kami basta nagsisikap. Kami ang champion team at alam namin ang Thailand gustong agawin ang korona,” he said.
Besides Bautista and Fernandez, the Philippine boxing team is composed of veteran light welterweight Charly Suarez, middleweight Eumir Felix Marcial, light heavyweight John Marvin and light-flyweight Carlo Paalam.
“Lahat kami nagsisikap… lahat kami gustong maka-gold,” said Bautista, who also won gold in the 2014 China Open. He added that his teammates want to post clear-cut victories over their foes to avoid getting bum decisions.
The Negros Occidental native found himself on the losing end of a questionable decision when he lost to Korea’s Choe Sang-Dong in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.
“Kailangan naming umabante talaga. Mahirap ‘pag pumapatas lang ang laban,” lamented Bautista. “Ilang beses na akong natalo sa host country.”
The team underwent a rigid 2-week training in Guanzhou, China, where they trained and sparred with amateur fighters from Kazakhstan, Korea, and China.
National team coach Boy Velasco said Bautista did well during training camp.
“Maganda ang ipinakita niya sa sparring, nakapag-adopt siya sa training niya sa mga kalaban. Halos lahat kasi ng boxers doon galing Olympics at malalaking tournaments… Nade-develop iyong mga taktika at nakakakuha ng bagong strategies na pwede niyang ma-adopt,” said Velasco.
Special attention is being given to Fernandez, who will be fighting as a bantamweight this year.
“Si Mario tinututukan namin kasi mahigpit ang magiging kalaban so kaya kailangang makapag-train ng dibdiban. Kundi wala, hindi tayo mananalo doon. Nasa timbang niya ang pinakamabibigat,” said Velasco.
But Fernandez, a native of Valencia City, Bukidnon, is confident that with the caliber of fighters they have on the team, the overall crown in boxing will stay with the Philippines.
“’Di naman sa pagmamayabang, iyong team namin may mga medalists na,” he said. “Iyong ibang bansa man may medals na rin, pero sa tingin namin maipapanalo namin ulit ang overall championship.”
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