It was Japan vs Philippines in the first boxing gold medal match in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. After a very close and clinch-heavy contest, the local fighter in Sena Irie was awarded the decision over Nesthy Petecio to take home the gold medal.
Irie and Petecio split the first two rounds in four of the five scorecards, and the gold medal was decided in the final three minutes. All of the judges gave the third round to the host country boxer, ending up with a 5:0 result in a bout that was much closer than the final tally indicated. Petecio, who had a good case for earning the decision as well, ends her impressive run with a silver medal.
Petecio and Irie are very familiar with each other, and the Japanese fighter has now won three of their four total bouts.
Irie, who is just 20-years-old, becomes the first ever women’s featherweight boxing gold medalist, and Japan’s first female Olympic boxing champion. Her gold medal run had her winning all five of her bouts, notably beating the number two seed in Tunisia’s Khouloud Hlimi 5:0, and having another decision over Great Britain’s Karriss Artingstall.
Leading up to this match, Petecio had four other wins, including an upset over the top seed in Chinese-Taipei’s Yu-ting Lin, and a 4:1 decision over the eventual bronze medalist in Irma Testa of Italy. Petecio’s silver medal run marks the first for the Philippines in 25 years, and just the third boxing silver ever in almost a century of participating in the Olympics. Petecio, who is the 2019 world champion, is also the first ever female boxer to get an Olympic medal for the Philippines.
Earlier in day, the Philippines’ Carlo Paalam won his third straight bout and advanced to the semi-finals after a massive upset over a 2016 Olympic champion. The Filipino guaranteed himself at least a bronze medal as he upset the Rio gold medalist and 2019 world champion in Uzbekistan’s Shakhobidin Zoirov.
Paalam looked sharp early, until the pair clashed heads in the second round, causing cuts to both men. The bout was called off and went to the scorecards, with four of the five judges scoring both stanzas to Paalam. The Filipino won a 4-0-1 majority decision, with one judge scoring it a 19-19 draw.
This continued the Philippines’ historic run. The country just had four total boxers competing, but has now secured three Olympic medals after some huge upsets over amateur boxing powerhouses.
To put things in context, this would be the first time since 1932, that the Philippines has secured multiple Olympic medals. The country’s last boxing medal was back in 1996, with Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco winning Silver. With such a rare achievement, Onyok gained so much fame and mainstream attention, that he even went on to be a successful comedian, actor and celebrity for years afterwards.
In this 2020 Olympics, Petecio won silver, while Paalam and Filipino middleweight Eumir Marcial are still in the running and will try to improve on their bronze medal guarantees. With three boxing medals combined with weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz bagging the first ever gold medal for the Philippines, Tokyo 2020 is now by far the most successful Olympic run ever for the Asian country.
Two other boxers also moved on to the gold medal matches in the morning period of Day 11. Duke Ragan, who is also 4-0 as a pro boxer, beat Samuel Takyi from Ghana by a 4:1 split decision. The 23-year-old advanced to the men’s featherweight finals and guaranteed at least another silver medal for the United States.
For the heavyweights, 2019 world champion Muslim Gadzhimagomedov of the Russian Olympic Committee defeated New Zealand’s David Nyika with a 4:1 decision to advance to the finals. The Kiwi will settle for bronze, while the Russian advances to the gold medal final bout.
Thailand’s Sudaporn Seesondee, Ireland’s Kelli Harrington, USA’s Keyshawn Davis, and Armenia’s Hovhannes Bachkov all won their respective bouts and guaranteed at least a bronze finish as they enter the semi-finals. Ryomei Tanaka did the same, although it was via a very controversial decision that had the hometown fighter winning 4:1.
More in-depth recaps per bout can be seen over at our friends at Bad Left Hook.