Petecio vs Colombian nemesis

DR Congo's Marcelat Sakobi Matshu (red) and Philippines' Nesthy Petecio fight during their women's feather (54-57kg) preliminaries boxing match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on July 24, 2021. (Photo by Luis ROBAYO / AFP)

TOKYO — Boxing reclaims a share of the spotlight in Team Philippines’ campaign in the XXXII Olympiad Wednesday when Nesthy Petecio guns for a bronze medal in the 54-57kg quarterfinals at the Kokugikan Arena here.

Petecio faces at 10 a.m. (Manila time) Colombia’s Yeni Marcela Arias Castaneda, bronze medalist in the 2019 Pan American Games, for a seat in the semifinals.

If Petecio hurdles the Colombian, two wins separate her from the gold medal.

“We will look at videos of her (Castaneda) fights here,” said Australian coaching consultant Don Abnett. “We know her next opponent will be tough, but we’re very confident.”

They have reason to be.

On Monday, Petecio removed the biggest stumbling block in her road to glory by beating tournament top seed and world no. 1 in Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yu-Ting via a 3-2 split decision.

That rousing win came at the heels of Petecio mauling Democratic Republic of Congo’s Marcelat Sakobi Matshu in her first bout.

“I want to win the gold medal for my country, but I know that I will have to work hard for it,” said Petecio after her victory over Lin.

Ed Picson, secretary-general of the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines, has seen Petecio’s opponent before and is aware of the danger she presents.

“The Colombian is a scrappy fighter who throws a lot of punches,” said Picson.

Castaneda prevailed over Petecio in India in 2018. But that was when Petecio took a break from training a couple of months before the tournament to attend to her studies at the University of Baguio. 

Petecio had the advantage of serious training for only a few weeks before the trip to India. 

“The coaching staff is not leaving anything to chance and has been developing a strategy to turn the tables this time,” said Picson.

On Thursday, Eumir Felix Marcial, predicted by Association Press to win a gold medal here, debuts against Younes Nemouchi of Algeria in the  69-76kg division at 10:48 a.m. (Manila time), while Irish Magno, fresh off her 5-0 demolition of Kenyan Christine Ongare, in the 48-51kg, takes on Thailand’s Jutamas Jitpong next at 12:24 p.m.

Carlo Paalam, after posting a 4-1 win over Ireland’s Brendan Irvine, fights Algeria’s Mohamed Flissi on Saturday at 10:48 a.m.

Meanwhile, judoka Kiyomi Watanabe bowed out of competition in the -63 kg elimination round against Spain’s Cristina Cabana Perez, losing via ippon at the Nippon Budokan.