Italian stands in way of Nesthy Petecio's gold-medal round bid

Three bouts thus far for women’s featherweight boxer Nesthy Petecio in the Tokyo Olympics has resulted in three impressive victories. 

The first fight was a shutout over Marcelat Sakobi Matshu of Congo. The second was a 3-2 thriller over current world No. 1 and former bantamweight world champion Lin Yu-Ting of Chinese Taipei. The quarterfinals was a revenge match as Petecio got back at Yeni Arias Castaneda of Colombia, the same boxer who scored a 5-0 unanimous decision win over her in the 2018 World Championships.

The bronze medal may be guaranteed – the first for the Philippines in women’s boxing – but Petecio came into the Olympics with one goal: to win a gold for the country. She has a chance to inch closer to that goal on Saturday, July 31, when she takes on Irma Testa of Italy. 

Petecio, the 2019 World Championship gold medalist, will no doubt have to be at the top of her game when she battles Testa for a spot in the finals.

But even as Petecio has seemingly gone through a tough stretch thus far in the competition, her Italian foe may have faced an even more formidable draw and has come out unscathed. 

In Testa's opening round match, she was pitted against Liudmila Vorontsova of Russia. Vorontsova was projected by the Associated Press to win at least a bronze in this year’s Olympics. The Russian was a silver medalist in the 2019 World Championships, where she lost in the finals via 2-3 split decision to Petecio. Vorontsova proved no match against Testa, who got the nod of four out of the five judges.

In the second round, Testa went up against the boxer who was predicted by the Associated Press as the probable silver medalist in the Tokyo Games, Michaela Walsh of Ireland. Testa showed anew her penchant for disproving the so-called media boxing experts as she triumphed via unanimous decision. After the fight, Walsh described her Italian opponent’s boxing style to Belfastmedia.com: “She was very quick, tips and taps, and moves.”

Testa advanced to the quarterfinals, where she scored another unanimous decision win over Canadian Caroline Veyre, the former Pan American Games gold medalist. With the victory, Testa also won for Italy its first ever medal in women’s boxing.

This is Testa’s second Olympic appearance. She competed as a lightweight in the 2016 Rio Games, where she exited in the quarterfinals. She has since gone down in weight to fight in the 54-57 kg division.  

Testa stands at 5-foot-8, similar to how tall Yu-ting Lin is. But what makes Testa different is that unlike Lin, who decided to go toe-to-toe with Petecio, she maximizes her height advantage by always flicking her jab all throughout the fight. The 2019 European Championships gold medalist is also a wily tactician who constantly moves side-to-side and contents herself with throwing counters. 

Petecio will have to be on bully mode and force her way inside because fighting from a distance will play right into Testa’s game plan. She will need to pressure Testa all fight long and force the Italian to engage. A slugfest will be to Petecio’s advantage. A tactical, slow-paced boxing match could favor Testa. – Rappler.com