Nesthy Petecio aims to break the curse for PH in Olympic boxing finals

Published July 31, 2021, 11:22 PM

by Jonas Terrado

(From left) Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco, Nesthy Petecio and Anthony Villanueva (File photos and AFP)

Nesthy Petecio will not only get a chance to give the Philippines its first Olympic gold in boxing but also slay the ghost of past heartbreaks in the squared circle.

Petecio became the third Filipino to reach the finals of Olympic boxing following her split decision victory over Italy’s Irma Testa in the semis Saturday, July 31, joining Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco in the 1996 Atlanta Games and Anthony Villanueva in Tokyo back in 1964.

Villanueva became the country’s first silver medalist during the 1964 Games held in the Japanese capital, but his loss to Russian Stanislav Stepashkin in the men’s featherweight final was booed by those who witnessed the bout, as per news accounts.

Three judges gave the nod to the Russian while the other two had it for Villanueva.

Despite the defeat, the 19-year-old Villanueva received a hero’s welcome and ventured into movies and the professional boxing circuit.

Villanueva died in 2014, but not after dealing with financial issues and suffering multiple strokes.

Velasco attempted to make up for Villanueva’s defeat 25 years ago but lost 19-6 to Bulgarian Daniel Petrov in the light flyweight finals, a result that was widely viewed back home as a “robbery.”

Like Villanueva, Velasco was warmly received upon his return with numerous groups pledging to reward him with incentives. Velasco, however, said that he never received some of the rewards promised to him in 1996.

Filipinos are hoping that Petecio can emerge as the top who’ll stand atop the podium if she can hurdle the challenge of Sena Irie of host Japan in the women’s featherweight final slated Tuesday, Aug. 3.