Rogen Ladon punches Rio Olympics ticket after beating Indian foe

Qian’An, Hebei Province, China – Five months after narrowly losing his shot at qualifying to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics during the world championship in Doha, Filipino light flyweight Rogen Ladon again ended up in tears at the Tangshan Sports Centre here.

This time, however, they were tears of joy.

Ladon branded himself an Olympian Thursday after making it to the Summer Games in August, the first ABAP boxer to qualify for the Olympic after Mark Anthony Barriga in 2012 in London, by beating India’s Devendro Singh Laisham in their semifinal bout in the AIBA Asian/Oceanian Olympic Qualifying Event.

All three judges scored it, 30-27, for the 22-year-old Ladon, the 2015 Southeast Asian Games silver medalist who now fights for the gold against Uzbekistan’s Hasanboy Dusmatov, winner over Mongolia’s Gankhuyag Gan-Erdene in the other semis bout.

Dusmatov denied Ladon in the finals of the 2015 ASBC Asian Confederation Boxing Championships by decision.

Shut off from the gold medal bout after losing to Russian Vasili Egorov in the semifinals last October in Qatar, Ladon, from Bago City, Negros Occidental, refused to fall into an elaborate trap laid down by his crafty opponent.

“Rogen focused on boxing and did not allow himself to be baited into the clinching and infighting that his Indian foe wanted,” said ABAP executive director Ed Picson. “He stuck to the fight plan of keeping the distance.”

Unable to lure Ladon inside, Laisham lunged in desperation and got deducted a point in the second round for excessive ducking.

Ladon dissolved in tears after his hand was raised, and he continued to sob uncontrollably in the dugout, Picson said, with the entire Philippine delegation congratulating him.

“Buong araw kahapon pinag-aralan namin ang mga kalaban,” said PH coach Boy Velasco. “Kailangan mauna si Ladon sa bigayan ng straight kasi yung sa India, manggagaling sa labas. Kay Ladon, deretso, so unang tatama. Straight at upper cut ang pang-score ni Rogen.”

Though assured of a spot in the Olympics, Ladon is not about to rest on his achievement.

“Tuloy na sa gold ‘to, sir!” Ladon said. “Number one pala tayo dito. Nakakahiya kung hindi gold.”

Bantamweight Mario Fernandez failed to follow Ladon outright to Rio, however.

Fernandez, an Asian Games bronze medallist, fell to highly regarded Thai Chatchai Butdee in their semis bout, 29-27 in the cards of all three judges, and will have to go through a box-off with a Kazakhstan fighter on Friday to secure an Olympic berth.

“Looked like Mario delivered the more telling combinations. The Thai was able to rally in the closing seconds of the second and third rounds, but his punches were not as crisp,” said Picson. “Coaches were baffled by the decision, but Mario vowed to get the slot tomorrow.”

The top three three boxers in each male weight category qualify for an Olympic berth.

Two other Filipino fighters, lightweight Charly Suarez and welterweight Eumir Felix Marcial, will climb up the ring later in the evening for places in the Brazil conclave.

Coaches here are Nolito & Roel Velasco and three-time Olympian Romeo Brin.

Other Filipinos in the tournament that drew 274 boxers from 41 countries are Karina Picson, appointed by AIBA as Deputy Supervisor, and AIBA 3-star referee-judge Maximo Abalos.