By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE four-man boxing team representing the Philippines in the sport in the Tokyo Olympics is a special group which could figure in the mix for medals, said a local fight analyst.
Eumir Felix Marcial (men’s middleweight), Irish Magno (women’s flyweight), Nesthy Petecio (women’s featherweight) and Carlo Paalam (men’s flyweight) are the boxers who will be competing for the country in the rescheduled Olympic Games, happening from July 23 to Aug. 8.
The four are among the 19 Filipino athletes who are looking to give the Philippines its first-ever gold medal in the Games.
For local fight analyst Nissi Icasiano, the country’s boxing contingent for the Tokyo Olympics is a solid bunch.
“This is a special group. I believe this is one of the best ensembles of Filipino boxers ever assembled,” said Mr. Icasiano in an online interview.
“Initially, we were expecting two representatives for boxing this Olympics. However, the pandemic turned out to be a blessing as it opened spots for Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam. With that being said, it’s the first time since 2004 that we have four bets in a boxing event,” he added.
The analyst went on to say that among the members of the Philippine boxing team, the now-professional Marcial is a favorite to go deep in the competition although he is not counting out the others.
“Out of the four boxers, Marcial is the favorite to land a podium finish in Tokyo. His credentials speak for themselves, a runner-up in world championships, topped the qualifiers, and won his pro debut — which is an added dose in his confidence heading to Tokyo,” he said.
Adding, “The good thing about being in Eumir’s position is that he already knows the level of competition and the type of opponents he is about to face in the Olympics. He already made 50 or 60 percent of his scouting report through the world championships and the qualifiers.”
Mr. Paalam, for his part, may be under the radar but has proven himself to flourish under such situations, and, therefore, can be dangerous.
“Carlo has been a dark horse for the most part of his career and has been successful in that which is why pundits should never sleep on him,” Mr. Icasiano said.
“Paalam is a type of boxer who relies on combinations to inflict the damage. When he pierces a solid jab, the follow-up is either a two-punch combo or a three-punch combo. People sometimes overlook this aspect of his game. He is a well-rounded boxer. He is comfortable fighting while backpedaling. His footwork is a sight to behold because he knows how to create angles and it’s limited to four directions,” the analyst added.
Mr. Icasiano said Mses. Petecio and Magno will have a tough road ahead of them in the Olympics but he believes the boxers have it in them to rise up to the challenge.
“This is the debut of the women’s featherweight division in the Olympics. Like in the case of Carlo Paalam, Nesthy Petecio is in a gauntlet. It’s a bracket that takes the knockout stage literally. It’s a stacked division that consists of good boxers. The good thing about it is that Nesthy is one of them. It’s a battle royale from the get-go,” the analyst said.
“Irish Magno, for his part, is such an exciting boxer. She has a fan-friendly style in the ring. However, Irish Magno has a tall order in her campaign. Though the podium finishers of the 2016 Games in Rio won’t be back in Tokyo, the bracket still holds a crop of top-notch talent, and one of them is Magno’s SEA Games rival Jutamas Jitpong.”
In Tokyo, Ms. Petecio will be the first to begin her campaign on July 24 in the round of 32, followed by Ms. Magno (July 25), Mr. Paalam and Mr. Marcial (July 26).