Tactic change seals Nesthy Petecio’s shot at boxing gold

Nesthy Petecio earned a shot at becoming the Philippines’ first Olympic boxing gold medalist. 

It didn’t come easy, though as Petecio’s passive stance and initial game plan had her trailing early against Italy’s Irma Testa in the women’s boxing featherweight semifinals of the Tokyo Games on Saturday, July 31. 

Noong first round po, sinunod ko lang po ‘yung unang game plan nila coach na di muna pumasok sa kanya. Sinubukan namin, pero hindi talaga nag-click kasi ang haba talaga ng reach niya,” said the 5-foot-3 Petecio of her opponent, who was a head taller.

(In the first round, I followed coach’s initial game plan not to initiate. We tried but it didn’t click because she really has a long reach.)

That plan had Petecio trailing 9-10 in the scorecards of all five judges. This forced her to change her tactic in the succeeding rounds, where she finally caught the Italian with several power shots to the head and body.

The quick adjustment sealed Petecio’s 4-1 victory over the 5-foot-8 Testa to advance to the final round.  

Kita niyo naman po, kahit ako nagugulat sa haba ng reach niya. Tapos noong second round, sabi ni coach na hindi kami puwedeng mag-stick sa ganoong laro, kailangan naming pumasok nang pumasok,” said Petecio.

(You saw that I was also surprised with her long reach. Then in the second round, coach said we can’t stick to our game plan, we need to be aggressive and bring her the fight.)

The ploy worked as the Italian retreated against Petecio’s sustained aggression, which attacked Testa from all angles. 

The Filipina wiped out Testa’s advantage in a flash with her own 10-9 score from all the judges, setting up the stage for a winner-takes-all round 3.

Noong mga sumunod na rounds, lagi po akong lumalapit, pinapasok ko po talaga siya. Kinukuha ko po siya sa speed, sa lakas ko, kasi alam ko na mas malakas po ako sa kanya,” said Petecio, whose continued assault in the third led to the victory that catapulted the 2019 world champion to the gold-medal round.

(In the succeeding rounds, I kept close, I really came in aggressive. I made use of my speed and strength because I knew I was stronger than her.)

Four judges saw the third in favor of Petecio (10-9), with only the fifth judge, Manuel Vilarino of Argentina, seeing otherwise.

The win matched the silver medal of light flyweight Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco in the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Petecio also has a chance to upgrade the silver to gold, a first for Philippine boxing, if she wins against Sena Irie of Japan on Tuesday, August 3.

“It means a lot to me because it (Olympics) is my father’s dream, and my dream also. This win is not only for me but also for my family, and to Filipinos, who prayed for me. I won this fight because I believed in God, I believed that He will help me,” said Petecio, turning serious and fighting to hold back her tears this time.

The Davao native also dedicated her win to her coaches and to close friend and fellow boxer Alexcel Dergantes, who passed away early this year.

“Sobrang saya ko po na makakapasok ako sa gold-medal round, kasi hindi lang po ito para sa akin, para rin po ito sa bayan, sa best buddy ko na si Alexcel Dergantes na yumao na, sa pamilya ko, and kay coach” Petecio said.

Alam ko ‘yung pagod ng coaches ko ever since. Nakikita ko ‘yung pagod nila. ‘Di sila napapansin sa tuwing kami ay nananalo. Ngayon po, inaalay ko itong larong ito sa coaches ko, sa mga Pilipinong nagdasal para sa akin.” 

(I’m so happy to reach the gold-medal round. This isn’t just for me, but also for the country, my best buddy Alexcel Dergantes who passed away, my family, and my coach. I know the fatigue the coaches have gone through ever since. I’ve seen their exhaustion. They don’t get noticed every time we win. But now, I want to offer this win to my coaches, to the Filipinos who prayed for me.) – Rappler.com