Magno in impressive debut; Petecio guns for quarters seat

Filipino boxer Irish Magno (red) and Kenya's Christine Ongare fight during their women's fly (48-51kg) preliminaries boxing match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on July 25, 2021. (Photo by Luis ROBAYO / various sources / AFP)

TOKYO — Team Philippines rebounded from a heartbreaking episode suffered late Sunday after Carlos Yulo’s misadventure in artistic gymnastics as flyweight Irish Magno followed Nesthy Petecio to the Round of 16 of the boxing competition at the Kokugikan Arena Monday.

Mixing control and punching power, Magno steered clear of complications by outboxing Christine Ongare of Kenya through three rounds 5-0 in the women’s 48-51kg Round of 32 bout.

The Iloilo boxer, who earned a ticket to the Games after winning a flyweight division (52kgs) box-off with a Tajikistan opponent at the Asia Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Amman, Jordan last year, will next face Thailand’s Jutamas Jitpong on July 29 for a seat in the quarterfinals.

Petecio, a unanimous decision winner over Marcelat Sakobi Matshu of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the  54-57kg category Sunday, shoots for a quarterfinal berth Tuesday against Chinese-Taipei’s Lin Yu-Ting, who drew a bye to the Round of 16 as the tournament’s No. 1 boxer.

While Petecio and Lin have never fought each other in a tournament, according to Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines executive director Ed Picson, the two sparred once in Bangkok in 2019 during the King’s Cup.

Making her presence felt in the tournament, Magno started strong, made the necessary adjustments in the middle round against the Kenyan, who gave away a few inches in height, and finished with a flurry.

Once in the first round, Ongare sought a timeout at the 1:45 mark to have her head gear adjusted after getting hit by a series of Magno combinations.

But it was all the respite the Kenyan boxer would get as Magno swarmed over her as soon as action resumed.

“Laban lang po tayo, focus lang,” said Magno at the mixed zone for athletes and the media. “Huwag po muna tayo mag-aim high. Step by step pa lang.”

The fight apparently went according to plan.

“We analyzed the bout two nights ago, of the Kenyan and another African girl, and we put the tactics together and Irish was pretty comfortable with it,” said Don Abnett, the national boxing team’s Australian coaching consultant.

“In the end, we went to Irish’s bread-and-butter punches, straights to the head and the body.”

Ongare’s head coach gave credit to Magno’s performance.

“Christine gave it all her best but she met a really good boxer,” he said.

Ricky Vargas, ABAP president, was thankful for the early wins.

“We are happy and grateful for this good start. Nesthy and Irish showcased their good preparation, determination and will to win,” said Vargas.

“But the road is long and we all need to hope and pray for contnued success. The men start tomorrow (Tuesday) with Carlo Paalam. We will be with him in prayer and spirit. And with Eumir Marcial as well when his turn comes (on July 29).”

With the women boxers safely in the Round of 16, men’s flyweight  Paalam makes his debut against Ireland’s Brendan Irvine Tuesday in the 48-52kg preliminaries.

Ranked No 5 in the world flyweight rankings, Paalam, 23, will take on the 25-year-old Irish, ranked 17th during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Magno’s performance momentarily put behind the misfortune suffered in gymnastics.

Yulo, seemingly struggling at every turn during the All-Around event, made it to the 8-man vault final but bowed out from two pet events — the parallel bars and the floor exercise where he won a gold medal in the 2019 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.