Though falling short of sweeping its feat last year, the five-man boxing team lived up to expectation and gave Davao Region the gold medals after gloomy performance in the first five days of hostilities in the annual games held in this city touted as the sports tourism capital of the country.
Davao City's Engelbert Moralde and Mark Anthony Barriga and Jerwin Ancajas
of Panabo City drew huge impression from the crowd at the Puerto Princesa City Baywalk with their superb Referee Stop Contest (RSC)-outscore victories in the opening rounds.
Engelbert's younger brother John Vincent, DAVRAA's first gold medal winner in boxing, took the spotlight in the second round with his own RSC victory en route to his first ever Palarong Pambansa gold.
DAVRAA's bid to duplicate its remarkable showing last year, however, was foiled by a son of a former RP flyweight title holder in the 1980's and nephew of a world boxing champion from Western Visayas who later was named best boxer.
Engelbert, 15, and Barriga, 14, retained their gold medals they won last year in Koronadal City, South Cotabato where Davao Region swept all five gold medals at stake.
Engelbert, an incoming 3rd year high school student at the Erico T. Nograles High School, threw a barrage of punches to beat Jhon Merced of MIMAROPA, 24 – 4 in less than 2 minutes in their paper-weight class encounter.
Barriga, a standout at the Davao del Norte Boxing team of businessman Tony Boy Floreindo, came out blazing right from the opening bell to dispose National Capital Region's Jerome Sarong, 16 – 1 in their mosquito division match in 1:03 seconds of the opening round.
"I just kept on attacking my opponent by throwing punches one after the other because he doesn't know how to forbear, that's what I have learned when I studied his fighting style during the semi-finals," said Engelbert, who dedicated his victory to his GMA-Davao chief technician-father.
Inspired by the early golden performances of his teammates, light-flyweight Ancajas, 16, younger brother of professional boxer Jersel Ancajas, clobbered Nicko Tayo of Zamboanga Peninsula, 21-1 in 1:09 seconds of the first round.
Not to be outdone was powder-weight John Vincent Moralde, 13, who beat Jhon Dabert Arcita of Western Visayas, 15 – 0 in 11 seconds of the second round.
"Going to the Palaro, the pressure was terrible because they (the delegation officials) are expecting us to duplicate last year's performance, "said trainer Rolando Oring and Efren Desierto who programmed the five boxers for a two-week three times a day training in preparation for the annual event.
But the 485-member DAVRAA contingent was saddened by the defeat of pin-weight Glenn Canteveros in the hands of Gerson Nietes Jr., whose namesake father was one of the erstwhile best boxers in the country two decades ago.
The Bacolod City-born Nietes, nephew of former World Boxing Organization mini-flyweight champion Donie Nietes, outscored Canteveros, who was worn out in his semi-final match against Jimmy Abducal of the National Capital Region, 52 – 38.
Davao Region's swimmers reaped nothing both in the elementary and secondary divisions as National Capital Region pushed to 112 points out of a possible 286 points in the elementary boys' division, way ahead of Calabarzon with 59 markers. A team title in swimming is equivalent to 30 points in the overall tally.
NCR also showed the way in the secondary girls' division with 92 markers as new backstroke record-holder Dorothy Hong and Hannah Dato snared their second individual golds by ruling the 200-meter back and 100m fly, respectively.
Also moving closer to the crown was NCR's secondary boys' team, which stayed on top with 78 points despite winning only one gold yesterday courtesy of Johansen Aguila in the 200-meter back 2:15.69.
But Calabarzon looked poise to avert an NCR sweep as it kept the lead in the elementary girls' division, thanks to Ana Nicole Tan and Althea Aira Belen, winners of the 50-meter back and 100-meter fly, respectively
NCR also continued to make inroads in secondary athletics with Jose Renato Unso and Isidro del Prado Jr., sons of Philippine track and field legends, snaring their second gold medals of the week-long Games held for the first time in this city.
The son of former Philippine athletics great Renato Unso, Jose Renato bagged the 110-meter hurdles gold in 15.7 seconds, while del Prado topped the 400-meter in 49.7 seconds. The younger Unso held the 400m hurdles title.
But Western Visayas remained the athletics title front runner winning more gold medals with huge victories of barefoot runners Vienna Mae Banebane and Reveneth Jayed Peñarubia who joined the double-gold club as they topped secondary and elementary girls' 400 meters.
Also strengthening WV's bid was Joefel Bueno, winner of the elementary girls' 100-meter hurdles. (Rico Biliran / MindaNews)