FINALS HOPEFUL. Rogen Ladon (left) unleashes a left hook against Po-Wei Tu of Chinese Taipei in their flyweight quarterfinal match in the Thailand Open International Boxing Tournament at the Angsana Laguna Phuket Resort Hotel in Thailand on Wednesday (April 6, 2022). Ladon easily won, 5-0, to secure at least a bronze medal and advance to the semis. (Photo courtesy of Thailand Boxing Association)

PHUKET, Thailand – Reigning Southeast Asian Games flyweight champion Rogen Ladon guns for at least a silver finish even as four other Filipino boxers aim for the same medal in the 2022 Thailand Open International Boxing Tournament on Friday at the luxurious Angsana Laguna Phuket Resort Hotel here.

Ladon takes on hometown bet Thanarat Saengphet in the men's fly semifinals scheduled at the opening match of the afternoon session starting at 1 p.m. (2 p.m. in Manila). Ian Clark Bautista (men's feather), Riza Pasuit (women's light), Aira Villegas (women's fly) and Hergie Bacyadan (women's middle) face separate opponents.

The Asian Games and Asian Championships silver winner Ladon earned a bye to the quarterfinals where he overwhelmed Po-Wei Tu of Chinese Taipei, 5-0, on Wednesday.

He now goes up against the 2021 AIBA World Championships bronze medalist Saengphet who narrowly beat world title holder Saken Bibossinov of Kazakhstan through a 3-2 split decision.

Ladon, 28, is not taking the much younger Saengphet (19) lightly even though he already caught a glimpse of the Thai fighter's potential as the two were sparring partners in the pre-tournament training camp held in Muak Lek District just outside Bangkok.

"Fifty-fifty 'yung tsansang manalo. Hindi natin matantya kasi nasa hometown 'yung kalaban eh. Pagsikapan lang talaga makalusot. Syempre hindi naman tayo magpapa-isa (Fifty percent chance of winning. We are not sure because I will be facing a hometown opponent. Try my best. Of course, we will avoid defeat)," said the pride of Bago, Negros Occidental.

On the other hand, Bautista fought all the way from the preliminaries to the semis where he meets Nguyen Van Duong of Vietnam, a silver finisher in the 2019 SEA Games.

The SEA Games bronze medalist Bautista first demolished Cheng Wei Lee of Chinese Taipei, 5-0, then outclassed Alex Mukuka of New Zealand, 4-0, in the quarterfinals.

Pasuit, who captured a silver in the SEAG held in Manila almost three years ago, squares off against Punam Rawal of Nepal after battering Zann Chee Wai Yee of Singapore, 5-0, in the quarters.

SEAG bronze winner Villegas clashes against Nillada Meekon of Thailand following dominant 5-0 victories over Novita Sinadia of India and fellow PH campaigner Mary Sinadjan.

Young boxer Bacyadan, for her part, got a bye to the semis where she tests her mettle against Bhagyabati Kachari of India, who scored a 5-0 win against Pornnipa Chutee of Thailand.

Leading the national boxing team's campaign in this prestigious Thailand Open is coach Don Abnett together with coaches Ronald Chavez, Reynaldo Galido, Roel Velasco, and Mitchel Martinez.

A total of 14 Filipino pugilists joined the event including former world champion Josie Gabuco and Tokyo Olympics campaigner Irish Magno. Unfortunately, Gabuco, Magno and the seven other nationals were still finding their rhythm after a long layoff due to Covid lockdowns resulting in their early exit in the tournament.

"All our boxers are still trying to shake off the cobwebs after two years of not seeing any international but they’re slowly getting their rhythm back,” said ABAP president Ed Picson.

“It also helped that they had a two-week training stint in Muaklek, outside of Bangkok, just before the competition and we’re sending them back there right after this for another camp in preparation for the SEA Games in Vietnam and the Women’s World Championships in Turkey next month," he added.

World champion Nesthy Petecio and fellow Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Carlo Paalam are also here in Thailand but skipped the competition and only joined the training camp.

The Thailand Open, organized by the Thailand Boxing Association headed by its president Pichai Chunhavajira, who is also the Asian Boxing Confederation (ASBC) president, and joined by top-tier athletes from various countries, is part of the PH boxing squad's preparations for its overall title defense in the upcoming 31st SEA Games slated in Hanoi, Vietnam next month. Seasoned boxing official Karina Picson is serving as the Technical Delegate while 3-star international referee-judge Jonathan Jimenez is working as one of the Technical Officials of the tournament which will award prize money to the podium finishers. (PR)