BANTAMWEIGHT Mario Fernandez, considered by the coaching staff and executive director Ed Picson as having a good chance of securing a berth for the Rio Olympic Games in the final AIBA Olympic qualifying tournament in Baku, Azerbaijan, has been regrettably pulled out of the three-man squad for the qualifiers because of a cataract in his left eye.
Fernandez, who just lost out of earning a slot at the last qualifier in China, had a good chance of making it in Azerbaijan, where five boxers in each weight division will qualify for the Olympics.
Picson told The Standard that Fernandez himself was concerned that he could be permanently blind if he risked fighting, since he was also often bothered by double-vision and with his cataract problem on his mind, he was not focused on his mission to earn an Olympic berth in Azerbaijan.
Concerned with promising bantamweight Fernandez’s health and safety, the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines was left with no choice, but to depart for the final AIBA Qualifying Event for the Olympics in Baku, Azerbaijan without the prized Asian Games bronze medalist.
Fernandez was to leave for Baku early Tuesday morning, along with flyweight Ian Clark Bautista and welterweight Eumir Felix Marcial, to vie for slots to Rio de Janeiro, but after being diagnosed with cataract in his left eye, the 2013 and 2015 SEA Games gold medallist opted to stay behind to have more tests and undergo treatment.
In the absence of Fernandez, only two boxers, Bautista and Marcial will carry the Philippine colors in the last Olympic qualifier from June 14 to 26 as ABAP seeks to increase the country’s gold-medal chances after light flyweight Rogen Ladon and lightweight Charly Suarez earlier clinched berths to the Rio Games by winning silver medals in the Asian/Oceania Olympic qualifying tournament in Qian’An, China.
Although Fernandez won a bronze medal last April in China, there were only three slots available for the Olympics in his weight class and he ended up as No. 4.
Marcial was put in a similar situation when he injured his hand and had to settle for a bronze medal.
Picson informed The Standard that Fernandez first complained of “double vision while training in Baguio last week. He was immediately brought to PLDT Medical Baguio, which referred him to an ophthalmologist who discovered the cataracts in his left eye.”
A second opinion by another ophthalmologist in Manila Friday revealed the same result.
Picson said he had left the decision on whether to travel to Azerbaijan to Fernandez, who himself “decided he could not concentrate fully with the thought of his eye condition in the back of his mind.”
“Although it is not life-threatening nor a serious condition, this is boxing and the cause of the condition was trauma so we didn’t want to take the risk. We would rather he continue with the tests and treatment the doctors have lined up for him and hopefully he can fully recover and fight another day,” said Picson.
Informed of Fernandez’s condition, ABAP president Ricky Vargas gave an assurance the boxer’s medical needs will be taken care of.