Big guns missing from Philippine delegation in SEA Games

ABS-CBN Sports on Jun 03, 2015 07:37 PM
Big guns missing from Philippine delegation in SEA Games
Mark Anthony Barriga and Charly Suarez of boxing, John Baylon of judo, Daniel Caluag of cycling and Bobby Ray Parks of basketball are all not on the official roster when the Nationals start their bid in this 11-nation tournament on Friday.

SINGAPORE -- As this tiny harbor state formally welcomes the bulk of the 464-man Philippine delegation, a score of big guns is curiously absent, signifying the depth of the national contingent in the 28th Southeast Asian Games here.

Stalwarts Mark Anthony Barriga and Charly Suarez of boxing, John Baylon of judo, Daniel Caluag of cycling and Bobby Ray Parks of basketball are all not on the official roster when the Nationals start their bid in this 11-nation tournament on Friday.

Billed as gems in local amateur boxing circuit, Barriga and Suarez were deemed ineligible to compete in the SEA Games after opting to sign a five-year professional contract to join the Aiba Pro Boxing competition -- a tourney which also dangles a slot in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics next year.

With the London Olympian Barriga and Asian Games silver medalist Suarez gone, the heavy burden of delivering a gold medal was given to rising stars Mario Bautista, Ian Clark Bautista and Eumir Marcial.

"We have trust and confidence in our boxers," said Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines president Ricky Vargas. "We take full responsibility for our choices in the SEA Games."

Also gone was John Baylon -- the legendary judoka who dominated his weight class for nine consecutive editions.

The 51-year old Baylon decided to hang up his kimono after bombing out in the bronze-medal match of the 2011 Games in Palembang, Indonesia. Although he made a brief comeback last year when he managed to clinch the gold medal in the 4th Asian Beach Games in Phuket, Thailand, he competed in jujitsu, not in judo.

On the contrary, Caluag -- the lone Filipino gold medalist in the Incheon Asian Games last year -- is still very much eager to represent the country in the biennial meet. Unfortunately, SEA Games organizers scrapped his pet event, BMX, knowing that the Filipino-American rider is already a cinch to bring home the mint.

Two-time UAAP Most Valuable Player Parks, meanwhile, was also initially included in the roster of men's basketball under American coach Tab Baldwin.

But the door of the world's most glamorous league -- the NBA -- suddenly swung open, prompting the son of the only seven-time PBA Best Import awardee to fly to the United States and chase the golden opportunity.

"The coaching staff and management are aware of Ray's plan," said Parks' local agent Charlie Dy. "He has to fly to the US to train rigidly and prepare for the NBA Summer Camp next month. He has to be ready."

"After all, a chance to play in the NBA couldn't wait."

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