Filipino boxer Harry Tañamor, around whom the country’s Olympic fortunes will rise or fall, begins his climb to Olympic glory today when he fights Cuban-trained African champion Manyo Plange of Ghana in the first round of the lightflyweight (48kg) category at the Workers’ Gymnasium here.
BEIJING, 13 AGO 2008 – Boxing president Manny Lopez said his ward, who lost in the round of 16 in the Athens Olympics of 2004, is taking “active rest” for his evening bout against Plange, trained under Cuban coach Roberto Ibanez Chaves.
He shrugged off speculations that Tañamor might be over the weight limit at weigh-in time two hours before the bout.
“Harry is just 400 grams over and he ate fruits mostly,” said boxing president Manny Lopez of his 30-year-old ward, one of three bets the country is pinning its hopes on for an Olympic medal.
The two others are taekwondo jins Toni Rivero and Tshomlee Go, who are competing Aug. 20 and 22.
“The Cuban coach (Juan Enrique Steyners Tissert) told me to just relax and not to be nervous as he has prepared him very well (for Beijing),” said Lopez.
Tissert, who is staking his reputation as Filipino coach for the first time, had said Tañamor is in the best mental and physical frame to face warriors of any color in his quest for the Olympic gold.
“Our job here is to win a medal, whatever the color. Tañamor is disciplined — we have prepared him well,” said Tissert.
Tañamor, who dropped out after the second round in the Athens Olympics, is aiming to finally win the country’s first gold since it competed in 1924. Boxing contributed two silver medals – by Anthony Villanueva in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and Onyok Velasco in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics – and three bronze medals from Jose Villanueva in the 1932 LA Olympics, Leopoldo Serrantes in 1988 in Seoul and Roel Velasco in 1992.
“They are just doing light workout with the mitt for timing and coordination and simulating time of competition for body rhythm and adjustments,” said Lopez.
Tañamor, who had trained under colder conditions in Baguio, will not have problems dealing with the 30 degree Celsius as well as the evening program since China and the Philippines are on the same time zone.
Tañamor, the 2007 world silver medalist, is expected to lean heavily on a big fighting heart and skills honed from a 10-year experience as a national amateur boxer to dispose of the 20-year-old Ghanaian who strengthened his knuckles by punching vehicle tires instead of sand bags.
The Ghanaian, ranked 33rd in the world, won a seat in the Olympics by winning the gold in the African championships last year.