Rio 2016: Rogen Ladon

Ryan Songalia
Bago City native Rogen Ladon rose from obscurity in 2015 to become the surprise of Asian boxing. Now the light flyweight boxer will represent the Philippines at the 2016 Olympics

As a newcomer to the world scene, Rogen Ladon isn’t garnering much attention as the 2016 Olympics approach. For the 22-year-old light flyweight boxer, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

As the long-time back-up to 2012 Olympian Mark Anthony Barriga, Ladon didn’t get a chance to shine until 2015, when he was named Discovery of the Year by the Asian Boxing Confederation after earning bronze at that year’s World Championships when Barriga withdrew with a hand injury.

The Bago City, Negros Occidental native sent a statement to the competition right away, upsetting the top-seeded Joselito Velazquez of Mexico by a shutout decision as Manny Pacquiao watched on from ringside.

That performance capped off a year that saw him take silver at the Southeast Asian Games in Singapore and the Asian Championships in Bangkok.

“Rogen is an unknown entity and that could also be the advantage, because not too many people know him,” says Ed Picson, executive director of Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines.

“As a matter of fact, some people including some sports officials questioned our decision to include him in the SEA Games lineup – I don’t know if you recall it – they were screaming ‘Bloody murder, who is this boy?’ Then he won over there and went on to win the silver as well in the Asian Championships and then the bronze medal in the world championships. I guess that shut them up.”

Ladon, now ranked number 3 in the world, is the latest in a long line of top Filipino boxers competing in the 49 kilograms and under weight class. The last 3 Filipinos to medal at the Summer Games – Mansueto Velasco (1996), Roel Velasco (1992) and Leopoldo Serantes (1988) – all competed in that same weight class. This southpaw is hoping to follow in their footsteps and end the Philippines’ 20-year medal drought.

“I would be proud and happy because I’d be able to bring home the gold medal for the Philippines when I compete in the Olympics,” Ladon says.

“I’m really confident that I will win a medal in the Olympics, which ever God gives me.”

Ladon was first recommended to the national team in 2009 after winning gold at the National Open Junior Championships. His older brother Joegen Ladon, a coach and former national team boxer, brought him to the attention of Picson. Ladon quickly rose up the ranks after getting a stamp of approval from Barriga, who said Ladon was his toughest foe in sparring.

“In fairness to Mark Anthony Barriga it was Barriga who picked him as his sparring partner in his preparation for the London Olympics. I was surprised because you know we’ve had a lot of boxers in that weight category. We do not lack for talent for that particular weight category but he picked Ladon as his sparring partner,” said Picson.

“And when I asked him [why], Barriga said, ‘he gives me a hard time.’” 

Nonito Donaire Sr, who spent a month each in Baguio City and Las Vegas observing the Philippine team, had high praises for Ladon and the national boxers as they get set to compete at Rio.

“He is very smart inside the ring. He knows how to land his punches,” said Donaire Sr, the father of 4-division world champion Nonito Donaire Jr.

“I know that there are so many good fighters in this tournament, but if they’ll do the strategy the way we are doing in the gym they will win.”

Even Barriga, who elected to turn pro after Ladon qualified, has high hopes for Ladon at Rio. All he has to do is be himself. 

He could get a medal as long as his game doesn’t change. Rogen is good and quick. He could do it.” – Rappler.com



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