TOKYO – Nesthy Petecio buried a stagnant first-round performance with an electrifying final two against Italian Irma Testa to advance to the finals and assure the Philippines a silver medal in the featherweight boxing division of the Summer Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena here Saturday.
Petecio trailed by 9-10 in the scorecards of all of the five judges after the first round, but none from the Philippine Team felt the need to panic.
They just knew their girl got this one under control.
“Hindi po ako na-down noong sinabi na nilang lamang si Testa. Nagdasal po ako at sinabi ko na para sa akin ito, ibibigay niyo ito, Lord,” a smiling Petecio told Filipino sportscribes at the mixed zone.
“We weren’t really worried, we know the ability of our girl,” said Philippine boxing team’s Olympic coach Don Abnett.
Like a switch that was finally turned on, Petecio was a completely different fighter in the succeeding rounds. She went nuclear in the second, attacking the taller Italian from all angles and connecting haymakers that rattled her foe, the champion of the 2021 Box-Am Tournament in Castellon de la Plana, Spain.
And just like that, Petecio 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, who continued the calculated aggression in the third, en route to a 4-1 victory over her policewoman foe.
Four judges saw the third in favor of Petecio (10-9), with only the fifth judge, Manuel Vilarino of Argentina seeing otherwise.
“I was surprised by her change of tactics. In the second and third rounds, she was very good in changing the way of fighting. I was surprised and I fought like the first round and didn’t adjust,” admitted Irma.
Petecio will face either Kariss Artingstall of Great Britain or Sena Irie of Japan in the gold-medal match. The 29-year-old 2019 SEA Games featherweight titlist has already beaten the two, defeating Irie and Artingstall, in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, on her way to the gold in the 2019 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Russia.
“It means a lot to me po, kasi 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.
Petecio 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. 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,” Petecio said.