Eumir Marcial looked more polished, more fearsome in Tokyo when he dominated his first two opponents via stoppages.
But the decorated middleweight fighter, who is already sure of a bronze medal at these Olympics following his first-round knockout victory over Arman Darchinyan of Armenia, acknowledged that the real fight begins in the semifinals.
There, Marcial will meet Oleksandr Khyzhniak of Ukraine, who advanced by beating Cedeno Martinez of the Dominican Republic, 4-1.
"Pabigat ng pabigat ang laban. Sunod 'yung Ukraine," said Marcial after emerging from the Kokugikan Arena.
The Marcial-Khyzhniak fight is on Thursday, August 5, with the winner to vie for the gold medal.
Marcial lost to Khyzhniak when they met in Bulgaria in 2018, but the defeat was "inconclusive" since Marcial was hampered by a shoulder injury back then.
"Mas malakas na tayo ngayon," he said.
This was evident with the way he roughened up Darchinyan during their quarterfinals pairing.
Fight analyst Atty. Ed Tolentino said Marcial combined his footwork and body punches to drop the Armenian's guard.
"May subtle side movements si Marcial . . . Tapos sinisikwat niya sa bodega. Those were meant to lower the guard of Darchinyan kasi ang guard niya kipkip masyado sa mukha," Tolentino said.
When Marcial found the opening, he fired a 3-punch combo that knocked out Darchinyan.
Tolentino agreed with Marcial regarding his views about Khyzhniak.
"Itong si Khyzhniak hindi pa natatalo since 2016. He has been on an unbeaten run, and we're talking about around 60 fights. Ang lupit ng kayang winning streak," he said.
"Ito ang pinakamabigat na makakalaban ni Marcial. Dito magkakasubukan. That's why I'm praying for a 'Eumiracle.'"
However, Tolentino pointed out that Marcial has improved by leaps and bounds in terms of skillset.
"He is an improved fighter. 'Yung kanyang skillset mas maganda. Dati parang tamad siyang mag-jab, ngayon ginagamit niya ang jab niya to set up his power punches," Tolentino said.
— Reports by Dyan Castillejo and Dennis Gasgonia, ABS-CBN News
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