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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Marcial fulfills lifelong dream of father/coach

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Tokyo—Eumir Marcial fulfilled the lifelong dream of his father after scoring the Philippine boxing team’s most impressive win by far in the Summer Olympic Games—a knockout victory that may have easily installed the Filipino middleweight as a favorite for the gold.

The Philippines’ Eumir Marcial (blue) celebrates after winning by KO against Armenia’s Arman Darchinyan during their men’s middle (69-75kg) quarter-final boxing match at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo. AFP

Marcial stopped his Armenian rival Arman Darchinyan in the first round of their 69-75kg bout at the Kokugikan Arena on Sunday to become the first Filipino male boxer in 25 years since Onyok Velasco (silver, 1996 Atlanta) to clinch an Olympic medal.

“Right hook ko ang naka-knockout sa kanya. Hindi ko rin ine-expect ‘yung suntok na ‘yun. Basta ‘yung akin lang, bitaw lang ako ng suntok at ito naman ang pinag-ensayuhan namin, kaya nagkaroon na ng muscle memory na automatic na ‘yung katawan na sumusuntok at gumagalaw. Lahat po ‘yun nakuha namin sa training at talagang pinaghandaan po namin ito,” said Marcial.

The end came at 2:11 of the opening round after the no. 4 seeded Filipino sent Darchinyan to the canvas with a right hook to the face in a KO win that assured the Philippines of a bronze, the second medal for the Olympic boxers here following the guaranteed silver of Nesthy Petecio in the women’s featherweight.

“I’m so very happy, it’s like a dream come true. When I was young and started boxing, we just talked about this with my father, while we are going to training,” said Marcial of his father Eulalio, a boxing trainer who never made it to the big leagues.

“And now I am here and I’m an Olympic medalist now. But I want the gold so I will do my best to give my best performance and leave the rest to God,” added Marcial, who can upgrade the color of his medal when he takes on former tormentor Oleksandr Khyzhniak of Ukraine in the semifinals on Thursday.

The 25-year-old Marcial recalled the time when he lost to his Ukrainian rival in the 2018 Strandja Memorial in Sofia, Bulgaria, albeit under different circumstances.

“Ready po ako sa laban na ito. Nu’ng laban namin, na-injured ako, kaya natalo ako. Sa pakiramdam ko, kundisyon na kundisyon ako ngayon. Ready po ako sa laban na ito,” said Marcial.

Against the Armenian, who like Marcial trained under Freddie Roach in Los Angeles, the ploy was for the Filipino to test Darchinyan’s power, and when he engages, that’s when the Filipino would sneak in for the counter, before darting away.

“Noong una, medyo tinatantsa ko pa, pero noong mga late minute na ng round, nakukuha ko na ‘yung game niya. Suntok, then alis lang ako. Medyo open guard lang ako para mas makita ko ‘yung suntok n’ya. ‘Yung plan ko talaga na ipapain ko ‘yung mukha ko para ma-counter ko ‘yung attack niya kaya naka-open guard po ako. ‘Yun din po ‘yung instructions ng coach ko, na tignan ko lang ‘yung suntok n’ya,” said Marcial, who is slowly building a reputation in the games as a KO artist. 

Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines president Ricky Vargas said the road will be more difficult for Marcial from hereon, but he has been equipped by the association for the big stage.

“I was and I remain confident of Marcial’s abilities and chances in this Olympics. Eumir showed excellent form and technique. If he continues to work with his corner and team ABAP, he’s got it. A fight at a time as I have no illusions that it will be an easy path, but he has the tools to make it to the top of the podium. I wish him well and pray to God he gives the country another gold along with Nesthy and Carlo (Paalam),” said Vargas.

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