PUERTO PRINCESA—With the hometown crowd cheering, Batang Pinoy and Palarong Pambansa standouts Criz Russu Laurente and John Vincent Pangga claimed unanimous decision victories over fancied opponents on opening day of the ASBC Asian Junior Boxing Championships at the City Coliseum Wednesday.
Brief but lively opening ceremonies featuring local groups entertained the foreign guests followed by short welcome remarks by PSC Commissioner Ramon Fernandez and ASBC vice president Yousuf Ali Al Kazim.
Laurente, youngest of a boxing brood from General Santos City (father Cristino is a coach, mother Rosalinda is an ABAP national referee-judge and brothers Criz Sander and Criztian Pitt are bemedaled national boxers), faced a much taller Cai Yujun in the preliminaries of the 48 kg light flyweight class.
Despite the vaunted reputation of Chinese boxers, it was obvious that Laurente had the advantage in skill and guile. The judges returned a 5-0 verdict for the Gensan lad.
CDO Mayor Oscar Moreno’s protege Pangga, on the other hand, had Uzbekistan’s Amirbek Ibodullayev as his opponent in the flyweight. 50 kg. Weight limit
The Uzbek was favored as he had just annexed his country’s national junior championships. Uzbekistan is regarded as the top world boxing superpower, having ruled the Rio Olympics and the last World Championships in April this year.
Pangga wowed the crowd with clever counter-punching and movement around the ring, peppering his opponent with crisp straights and hooks.
The unassuming Pangga dealt Uzbekistan its only loss on opening day (5 other Uzbeks won; they have entries in all 13 weight categories here).
ABAP president Ricky Vargas, in transit from a business trip to the US, closely monitored the event by phone with secretary-general Ed Picson.
“Great start by our fresh recruits from the ABAP grassroots program. We are underdogs here, but let’s hope our boys can draw inspiration from crowd support and that they can end well”, Vargas said.
The Philippines is represented by 2 other boxers, Kenneth de la Pena and Norlan Petecio, who both drew a bye.
Coaches are Ronald Chavez, Elmer Pamisa and Romeo Brin.
The biennial international tournament, which drew 18 countries, 142 boxers and more than 70 officials from all over Asia, is supported by Palawan Gov. Jose Ch. Alvarez, City Mayor Lucilo Bayron, the Philippine Sports Commission, MVP Sports Foundation, Smart, Maynilad, PLDT, Wesing, Meralco, Meralco One Foundation, Philippine Airlines, San Miguel Corporation and Hotel Centro Puerto Princesa.