By Nick Giongco
Four years ago, it was just a dream.
Early Monday morning in Manila (late Sunday in Jordan), it became a reality for hard-hitting Filipino middleweight Eumir Felix Marcial.
Denied of a berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics, Marcial made good on his second attempt to get a slot when he beat up Mongolian Byamba Erdene Otgonbaatar in the third round in the Asia-Oceania Olympic qualifying tournament in Amman.
Marcial, the top seed in the slugfest owing to his runnerup finish in the 2019 world championships, had Otgonbaatar in trouble numerous times and a whopping right compelled the referee to pull the plug on the fight.
“Natupad na rin ang pangarap namin ng papa ko mula nung bata pa ako,” a sobbing Marcial said after the fight.
“Lubos akong nagpapasalamat sa ABAP, lalo na kina chairman MVP at president Ricky Vargas, sa PSC at sa mga coaches ko especially sina coach Ronald (Chavez), coach Don (Abnett) at coach Elmer (Pamisa).”
Marcial, 24, attempted to qualify in Rio but he didn’t make it and his latest feat only put him in line for his ultimate goal.
“Apat na taon kong hinintay ito matapos na hindi ako naka-qualify nung 2016 dahil sa injury. Kaya napakatamis nito. Lalo ko pang dodoblehin ang training ko para makuha ko ang talagang target namin ng Papa ko— ang ginto sa Olympics,” he added, referring to his father Eulalio.
Four other Filipino boxers are in line to join Marcial: featherweight Nesthy Petecio, fly Irish Magno are lightweight Riza Pasuit in the women’s side and fly Carlo Paalam.
They all see action Monday against tough foes.
Petecio faces an old rival in Japan’s Sena Irie as they bid to untie a 1-1 standoff in head-to-head showdowns.
Magno meets five-time world champion Meri Kom of India, while Pasuit tangled with No. 3 seed Wu Yi-Shih of Chinese-Taipei.
Paalam is likewise ranged against Indian world champion Amit Panghal, who holds two win over Paalam, first in the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games and in the 2019 worlds.
Feather Ian Clark Bautista and welter James Palicte were eliminated early in the tournament and will get their last chance to qualify during the World Qualification in May in Paris.
Last time in Rio, only two boxers competed—light-fly Rogen Ladon and lightweight Charly Suarez—who were eliminated early.
With Marcial earning an Olympic berth, the Philippines now has three qualifiers following the inclusion of pole vaulter EJ Obiena and world champion gymnast Carlos Yulo.