Nesthy Petecio has work cut out against Irie in gold medal match

NESTHY Petecio of the Philippines reacts after winning her fight against Irma Testa of Italy. — REUTERS

By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

FILIPINO women’s featherweight boxer Nesthy A. Petecio has a solid shot at winning the country’s second gold medal in the Tokyo Olympic Games but will have her work cut out for her, said one local fight analyst.

Ms. Petecio, 29, will take on a familiar foe in Sena Irie of Japan in the featherweight gold medal match on Tuesday at 12:05 p.m. at the Kokugikan Arena.

It will be the fourth encounter between the boxers in the last two years, with the Japanese holding a 2-1 lead in their head-to-head matchup.

For fight analyst Nissi Icasiano, the fact that Ms. Irie currently has the upper hand over Ms. Petecio speaks a lot of what the Filipino bet will be dealing with in the Olympic final.

“The style of Nesthy Petecio inside the ring is what we call in boxing lason (poison) because Petecio is a master boxer. Her style is a bad matchup for any boxer who will share the ring with her, especially the slugger-type pugilists. She will make you miss and she will make you pay for it. Being an in-ring technician, Nesthy can make her opponents question or doubt their abilities,” Mr. Icasiano said in an online interview with BusinessWorld.

“But the problem here is when she gets out of her box and starts to be aggressive, especially when her opponents are much taller than her. She becomes hittable and predictable. And one of the aspects that she has to worry about in her gold medal matchup against Sena Irie is height. Not as tall as Irma Testa (Petecio’s opponent in the semifinals), but in their past three fights, Irie didn’t have difficulties fighting at her own pace and imposing her long reach,” he added.

Mr. Icasiano went on to say that for the gold medal match, Ms. Petecio has to be on top of things and has the right approach.

“In this case, you will often hear the line: ‘Get inside and bring the fight to them.’ But remember, it’s easier said than done. Maintaining her base will be the key. Doubling up the jab, mixing in feints, and demonstrating unpredictability and variety in punches thrown can confuse the taller Japanese, who may be waiting to establish an opening to tee off a counter. Quick shorter steps forward will also help Nesthy, instead of aggressively swinging for her punches,” the analyst said.

Despite the tough challenge Ms. Petecio will be facing in the Irie fight, Mr. Icasiano is still confident of the Davao del Sur native’s chances.

“Absolutely. Nesthy has the chance to win this fight. Mentally, she’s hungry to even things out with Irie. Moreover, she has the momentum after coming off a win in the semis. You can add the Hidilyn Diaz factor in winning the gold medal,” he said.

Mses. Petecio and Irie first met in April 2019 at the ASBC Asian Confederation Boxing Championships in Thailand, where Ms. Irie scored a close split decision win.

They met anew six months later at the World Women’s Boxing Championships in Russia, with Ms. Petecio winning by majority decision to claim the world title.

Their last fight was in March 2020 in the Olympic Qualifiers in Amman, Jordan, where top seed Ms. Petecio absorbed a unanimous decision loss to Ms. Irie.

Meanwhile, also seeing action on Tuesday at 10:15 a.m. is flyweight boxer Carlo Paalam against Uzbekistan’s Shakhobidin Zoirov for a spot in the semifinals where they will be assured of an Olympic medal.

Mr. Paalam, 23, advanced to the quarterfinal round of the flyweight division after he defeated Mohamed Flissi of Algeria by unanimous decision in the Round of 16 on Saturday.

He made up for his height disadvantage with speed and precision in counter-punching to get the better of his opponent en route to the convincing victory.

All of the five judges scored the three-round fight, 30-27, in favor of the Bukidnon native.