MANILA -- With her thrilling victory over the taller Irma Testa of Italy in Tokyo on Saturday, Nesthy Petecio became the first Filipino boxer to fight for an Olympic gold since Mansueto "Onyok" Velasco 25 years ago.
Before Petecio, Velasco and the late Anthony Villanueva were the only Filipinos boxers to reach the gold medal round at an Olympiad.
In Tokyo 1964, Villanueva advanced to the final of the men's featherweight class by beating Charles Brown (United States) 4–1. He settled for silver after losing to Stanislav Stepashkin of the Soviet Union.
Velasco duplicated the feat 32 years later when he outpointed Rafael Lozano of Spain to reach the gold medal match of the men's -48 kilogram division in Atlanta 1996.
Velasco, however, fell short of winning the gold after a controversial decision loss to Bulgaria's Daniel Petrov.
It would take another 25 years for the Philippines to see another Filipino reach the gold medal round of Olympic boxing.
The 5-foot-2 Petecio went through Marcelat Sakobi Matshu of Congo, Lin Yu-ting of Chinese-Taipei, and Yeni Arias of Colombia, to set a semifinals meeting with Testa, who stood 6 inches taller than the Filipino.
Despite falling behind in the first round, Petecio clawed her way back in the next two using aggression and effective counterpunching to squeeze out a 4-1 split decision.
With the victory, she has already assured herself of at least a silver medal.
International boxing referee and analyst Danrex Tapdasan said Petecio has innate skills that brought her this far.
"Imagine mo, 5 laban ang kailangan niyang pagdaanan. One day lang ang pahinga, tapos ibang kalaban na naman, iba na naman ang style ng makakalaban mo," said Tapdasan.
"'Yung boxing IQ niya is really excellent at 'yung physical conditioning niya excellent din. Kaya kahit hindi siya katangkaran sa weight class niya, she can really excel."
If Petecio goes all the way and wins the gold, Tapdasan said the Davao-born fighter will be among the legends of Philippine boxing.
"I can put her in the Top 5, kasama na doon si Manny Pacquiao, Pancho Villa at Gabriel 'Flash' Elorde. Kasi siya ang first ever Pinoy woman, if ever to win a gold," said Tapdasan.
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