With the Tokyo Olympics just over two months away, boxing hopeful Eumir Marcial should be in the final phase of his preparations.
Instead, the boxer who some say is our best bet for a gold medal is caught in a word war with the president of the Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines, Ricky Vargas.
It’s both sad and unprecedented. This is the first time that an Olympian has openly fought an NSA president. No, it’s not the same case with Mary Joy Tabal and Philip Juico of the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association; that one was a fight for a spot in the national team. Besides, Joy didn’t say anything against Juico; the Cebu running community fought for her.
But back to Marcial vs. Vargas.
This all started when the 25-year-old Marcial turned pro last year, to the disappointment of Abap. I think that has always been Marcial’s program—and we all expected that--that after the Tokyo Olympics, he’d turn pro. To be honest, for most former national team members, 25 is a bit late to turn pro, but Marcial stuck around.
But two things happened. One, AIBA--the international body for Olympic boxing—decided to accept professionals and the Covid pandemic hit.
Marcial turned pro, knowing the Olympic medal is still within horizon and won’t be closed on him the way it had for amateur boxers pre-2016.
And this is why things turned ugly. Professional fighters are assigned trainers by their managers who get a certain percentage from their purse. National team athletes, on the other hand, get an allowance and are trained by national coaches who are paid for by the national sports association.
Marcial is a professional athlete who happens to be a member of the national team.
It seemed Abap had no say when he left for the US last year, but I thought things were OK when in March, his handlers said his training program was geared towards Tokyo and that they had to turn down a couple of fights so it won’t get them off track.
But in the last few days, Marcial has spoken up about the lack of support for his Tokyo stint and Abap, as expected, has fought back.
“Where’s your loyalty and desire to fight for the flag?”
“I waited this long to turn pro!”
We can discuss the issue to its death, but it won’t get us closer to a Tokyo gold medal. Who’s right, who’s wrong? Abap and the PSC did their part, by continuing his stipend despite his turning pro and that’s aside from the stipend he gets as a reservist.
Marcial said it isn’t enough. So it isn’t enough. If Marcial wants a full staff, let’s give him one. This late in the game, frankly, Abap and the PSC can’t afford to do otherwise.
Of course, it will be all on Marcial to deliver and even if it leaves a bad taste in the mouth, both ABAP and the PSC have to do extra to make sure he gets to deliver.
I hope this week will be the last that we’d hear of this exchange of statements by Marcial and Abap.
It’s a fight we don’t need.