The Philippines failed to win a medal in the next four Olympics following Anthony Villanueva’s silver in boxing in 1964 in Tokyo. The drought was aggravated when the country joined the boycott led by the United States and didn’t compete in the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Leopoldo Serrantes once again showed the competitive spirit of Filipino boxers when he won the bronze medal in the light flyweight division in Seoul, South Korea in 1988 where the hosts swept all the gold medals and were roundly criticized for one of the worst decisions in Olympic boxing history when the great Roy Jones, Jr. was blatantly robbed of a gold medal.
Jones dropped a 3-2 decision to South Korea’s Park Si-Hun despite hammering the Korean for three rounds landing 86 punches to Park’s 32.
Park reportedly apologized to Jones later and the referee indicated he couldn’t believe the judges’ decision. One judge admitted they had made a mistake and all three judges were subsequently suspended following an official investigation by the International Olympic Committee which concluded that three of the judges were wined and dined by South Korean officials.
In his opening bout, Serrantes won by a 2nd round RSC, stopping Hassan Mustafa of Egypt. In his next fight, he dominated Sammy Stewart of Liberia 5-0 before scoring another impressive 3rd round stoppage of Morocco’s Mahjoub Mjirich in the quarterfinals.
Serrantes was unfortunately routed in the semifinals by Bulgaria’s Ivailo Marinov losing 5-0. Marinov went on to capture the gold medal beating Michael Carbajal of the US also by a 5-0 score.
In a tragic twist both Serrantes and Villanueva are ill and living in near abject poverty. Serrantes is suffering from an advanced case of tuberculosis since 2002 and has to walk around with an oxygen tank to be able to breathe. Villanueva has had a series of strokes and is partially paralyzed and his speech is impaired.
Roel Velasco from Bago City in Negros Occidental represented the Philippines at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain where he won a bronze medal in the light flyweight division.
An excellent boxer, Velasco opened his bid with a superb performance against Kenya’s James Wanene, completely dominating his opponent en route to a lopsided 16-1 win following the introduction of the electronic scoring system. Velasco defeated Rajendra Prasad of India in the second round 15-6 before scoring a narrow 7-6 win over Rowan Williams of Great Britain in the quarterfinals.
Like Serrantes, Velasco had the misfortune of meeting the eventual gold medal winner in the semis, classy Cuban Rogelio Marcelo, and suffered a Referee Stopped Contest at 1:36 of the opening round.,
Velasco is the elder brother of Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco, who won the silver medal in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta in the same light flyweight division.
Roel also competed in the 1997 World Amateur Boxing Championships where he won the silver medal. He completed an extremely successful year by winning the gold medal in the 1st Muhammad Ali Invitational Boxing Championships in the world heavyweight champion’s home state of Kentucky, the Italian Boxing Championships and the Roberto Balado Cup in Cuba.
Roel Velasco is today considered the top coach of the Philippine team of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines headed by its president Ricky Vargas. He is also currently a Petty Officer First Class (PO1) in the Philippine Navy.
(Editor’s note: As a build-up to the London Olympic Games Yahoo! Sports Philippines is featuring stories and interviews of past Filipino Olympians. Check back here regularly for updates.)