ABAP wants Abnett ‘for the long haul’

Published August 10, 2021, 6:26 PM

by Tito Talao

(From left to right) Atty. Ed Gastanes, Chef de MIssion Mariano Araneta, Nesthy Petecio, Rep. Abraham Tolentino, Coach Don Abnett and Coach Marcus Manalo. (Photo from Dinah Remolacio)

Don Abnett, the Australian Olympic head coach of the Philippine boxing team, whose strategies were instrumental to winning three of four Games medals in Tokyo, including two silvers, isn’t going anywhere.

“Of course we would like to have Don Abnett for the long haul,” said Ed Picson, secretary-general of the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines Tuesday, August 10.

“It’s no secret that he has enhanced our training regimen and we want to implement a coaches development program with him and other coaches (local and foreign) in strength and conditioning, psychology, nutrition and other sport sciences.”

At the heart of the program, Picson said, will be “boxing tactics and strategies.”

Abnett, 59, joined the Philippine team in February 2019 and introduced innovative methods that helped revitalize the national squad for tournaments in the regional and world levels.

His contract, however, expires by December 2021, which would have coincided with the conclusion of the original schedule of the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi.

Abnett has expressed his desire to stay on.

“I would love to still be with the Philippine team, if they’ll have me,” Abnett said during the flight to Manila from Tokyo last Monday.

“But when it’s time to go, you go. And when that time comes, I would have wanted to leave behind a legacy, that Philippine boxing is in good shape when I leave.”

Abnett going elsewhere isn’t about to happen anytime soon however, it seems.

Rising COVID-19 cases in Vietnam had pushed the SEA Games to next year at a yet to be decided official date, while the 19th Asian Games in Hanzhou, China is taking place as calendared in September 2022.

And there’s the 2021 AIBA Men’s World Boxing Championships in Belgrade this October.

With Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam winning silver medals, and Eumir Felix Marcial taking the bronze in the just-concluded XXXII Olympiad — with all three boxers praising the Australian’s pre-fight tactics, along with that of the local coaches — Abnett’s signature will conceivably still be on the blueprint of these events, unless something unforeseen comes up.

It took 25 years, or since Mansueto ‘Onyok’ Velasco won the silver in 1996 in Atlanta, that boxing’s thirst for an Olympic medal was quenched —and not just with one but three.

It is an achievement not easy to overlook.

“This is not to denigrate the competence of our local coaches, who are excellent mentors, but we need new ideas, technology and knowledge that are essential for dynamic growth of the boxing program,” said Picson.

“We want to get the observations of people from the outside looking in, just as Coach Don did.”

Picson said the synergy existing among the coaching staff was crucial in boxing’s success in Tokyo, not just Abnett’s training regimen and game plans.

“Let me hasten to add, Coach Don is not a miracle worker. He worked with what we had and fine-tuned it along with our Filipino coaches. We need to do more of that. And we will definitely request the Philippine Sports Commission to extend Don Abnett’s engagement.

Told of ABAP’s plan to extend its foreign coach’s stay, PSC chairman Butch Ramirez said the process isn’t complicated.

“They just have to write the PSC board for approval,” said Ramirez.