MANILA – The Asian-Oceanian Olympic Qualifying event for Boxing went underway Tuesday at the Prince Hamzah Hall in Amman, Jordan with 221 male and female boxers from 35 countries passing the Sport Entry Check.

The Philippines is fielding four men and three women who will attempt to make the quotas set for the Summer Olympics to be held in Tokyo, Japan late July this year.

In the forefront of the Philippine campaign are World Women’s featherweight champion Nesthy Petecio and World Middleweight silver medalist Eumir Felix Marcial.

Both are seeded number 1 in their respective categories.

Other hopefuls are flyweight Carlo Paalam (52kg.), featherweight Ian Clark Bautista (57 kg.), light welterweight James Palicte (63 kg.), and female boxers Irish Magno (51 kg., flyweight) and Riza Pasuit (60 kg., lightweight).

Bautista is the lone Filipino scheduled on opening day, against Hayato Tsutsumi of Japan at 5 p.m, Jordan time (around 11 p.m., Tuesday Manila time).

The coaching staff is led by Men’s head coach Ronald Chavez, Women’s coach Reynaldo Galido (head coach Nolito Velasco is indisposed and had to beg off at the last minute), national coaches Roel Velasco and Elmer Pamisa and foreign consultant, former Australian head coach Don Abnett.

Also in the team are Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) sports psychologist Marcus Jarwin Manalo and PSC masseur Herbert Manlangit. ABAP secretary-general Ed Picson is team manager.

On Wednesday, March 4, Petecio takes on the winner of the opening day bout between Sri Lankan Krismi Langkapurayalage and Silpa Lau Ratu of Indonesia.

Also on Wednesday, Pasuit debuts against Japan’s Saya Hamamoto.

“We could have had a better draw, but our boxers are determined and well-prepared. And for that we thank the Philippine Sports Commission along with our private sponsor, the MVP Sports Foundation,” Picson said.

Abnett said Petecio and Marcial are obviously the “boxers to beat here and the opposition have them in their sights, but they’re in great shape. The other big guns here are Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, India and Thailand, but we’re not discounting anyone. The coaches prepared our boxers well”.

ABAP president Ricky Vargas encouraged the Filipino boxers to give their best shots.

“You’ve prepared long and hard, you can do this. God be with all of you and keep you in his protective embrace. Good luck all,” Vargas said.

Those who fail to qualify in this tournament will have a last chance to do so in May, at the World Qualifiers in Paris, France. (PR)