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Petecio nears Olympic gold

But the gutsy Filipina needed to bounce back from a tentative start to draw level after two rounds then overwhelmed the Italian with total aggression in the decider to pound out a split decision win and a crack at the gold medal in women’s featherweight.

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Ranged against a taller rival, Nesthy Petecio found Irma Testa not too big of a test after all.

But the gutsy Filipina needed to bounce back from a tentative start to draw level after two rounds then overwhelmed the Italian with total aggression in the decider to pound out a split decision win and a crack at the gold medal in women’s featherweight at the Kokugikan Arena yesterday.

This marked the first time a Filipino boxer had gained a shot at the boxing gold since Onyok Velasco bagged the silver in the 1996 Atlanta Games with Petecio going all out to accomplish what the late featherweight Anthony Villanueva had failed to do, also here in Tokyo, when he lost by a disputed split decision, 3-2, to the taller Stanislav Stephashkin of the Soviet Union in the 1964 Olympics.

More importantly, she will try to rewrite Philippine sports history in a span of nine days as she guns for the country’s second gold medal after Hidilyn Diaz nailed a historic feat in weightlifting’s 55kg division last Monday.

“I am very thankful to the people who believed in my ability and made me realized that my boxing career is not yet over,” said Petecio, admitting that she almost quit after bowing to Yin Junhua of China in the Round of 16 of the 18th Asian Games in 2018.

“I’m not thinking about breaking the record or become the first Filipino boxer who will play in the finals of the women’s division. For me, I will compete because this is my dream — I will do this. I’m not thinking of anything, but to play my heart out to realize my dream for my family and for my country.”

She said her job is far from done.

“No, not yet. We still have one match.”

Petecio kicked off the four-man Phl boxing team’s campaign with a 5-0 demolition of Congo’s Marcelat Sakobi last Sunday, then followed it up with a shock 3-2 win over former world champion Lin Yu-Ting of Taiwan and another unanimous decision over Colombia’s Yeni Castañeda.

Testa and Petecio split the 10-9 verdicts in the first two rounds but four judges scored the final round 10-9 for Petecio while one gave Testa a 10-9 result, sending the former to the finals against the survivor in the semifinal clash between Kariss Artingstall of Great Britain and Sena Irie of Japan.

The gold medal match is set on Tuesday.

Flustered by Testa’s reach and jabs that set up a couple of straights, Petecio yielded the opening round while sizing up her foe with all five judges giving the round to the 2016 Rio Games veteran.

But the Davao del Sur ace swarmed the Italian with a barrage of punches at the onset of the second and stepped up her attack to the prodding of her corner, which kept hollering to go for the body at the 1:49 mark.

She responded and evened things up, sending the third round to a virtual slugfest.

It, however, never materialized as Petecio dominated it, stalking her prey like no other and spraying her with sustained blows to the body and the head that had Testa spending majority of the round either turning her back or backing off to avoid getting tagged more.

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