By TITO S. TALAO
TOKYO — Blood from an accidental headbutt streaming down the face of Algeria’s Younes Nemouchi halted the fight Thursday, but the Philippines’ Eumir Felix Marcial’s power helped bring about the abrupt end in the XXXII Olympiad at the Kokugikan Arena.
Shortly after the ring doctor was summoned a second time to check on a gash on the Algerian’s right brow from a collision of heads earlier in the first round, the referee proceeded to wave off the middleweight 69-75kg Round of 16 bout with 19 seconds left, sending Marcial, the top seed, barreling into the quarterfinals.
Marcial will face Armenia’s Arman Darchinyan — whom he had beaten before in Russia in 2018 — for the bronze medal on Sunday, August 1, with the winner advancing to the semifinals against the winner of the other quarters bout between Oleksndr Khyzhniak of Ukraine and Euri Cedeno Martinez of the Dominican Republic.
“Sa headbutt pumutok ulo nya,” said Marcial after the fight. “Parang di ko nga lang naramdaman. Pero nag-ingat din ako nong na-cut siya dahil baka magkatamaan uli kami ng ulo.”
Nemouchi’s corner briefly protested the Referee-Stopped-Contest verdict, arguing he was headbutted, but the decision stood.
Ronald Chavez, head coach of the national men’s team and a Barcelona Olympics veteran in 1992, said the head clash came right after Marcial hit the Algerian with a crushing right hook to the head with 1:58 remaining in the opening round that sent him down.
“Nauna yung bagsak,” said Chavez, indicative that Marcial was on the way to a commanding victory.
“Dikit ‘yung laban namin,” said Marcial. “Pasok lang siya nang pasok. Sobrang tibay din ng kalaban. Ilang beses ko rin tinamaan ng body shot pero nandoon pa rin ‘yung fighting spirit niya na lalaban talaga siya.”
Marcial next staggered Nemouchi with a solid right to the face at 1:10, buckling the knees of the game Algerian.
The referee then stepped in for the first time to have the cut examined by the doctor before putting an end to the fight shortly after when work on the cut failed to stem the bleeding.
“I am so happy that Marcial is back to his old form and with polished new moves he developed in the last three months,” said Ricky Vargas, president of the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines.
“I believe he will only get better because his mind and body are now fully focused. Also, he told us that his kababayan Hidilyn’s victory inspired and motivated him even more. Welcome back, Eumir. We pray for your continued success, in the Olympics and beyond.”
ABAP secretary-general Ed Picson said the fight “underscored the great conditioning, excellent tactics and overall preparation Eumir underwent before Tokyo.
“Coach Gerson Nietes, who first trained him at the USA Olympic Boxing Center in Colorado Springs before they were joined by men’s head coach Ronald Chavez, worked doubly hard to mold Marcial to this deliberate, calculating and powerful style as envisioned by our Olympic head coach Don Abnett,” said Picson.
“It is Coach Abnett who developed the training programs of both the men and women boxers and daily monitored developments in Marcial’s training from our other camp in Thailand.”
While paying tribute to his ABAP coaches, Marcial also mentioned the stint he had under Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach at the Wild Card gym in Los Angeles, saying he likewise learned a lot there.
Meanwhile, the country’s bet in the women’s flyweight 48-51kg category Irish Magno couldn’t repeat her semifinal victory in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games against Thailand’s Jutamas Jitpong, absorbing a unanimous 5-0 defeat and leaving three PH boxers — featherweight Nesthy Petecio, flyweight Carlo Paalam and Marcial — standing.
Magno appeared troubled throughout by Jitpong’s left lead and was repeatedly tagged by the springy, fast-moving Thai with whipping right straights, unable to launch any effective recovery after trailing in the cards of all judges after the first round.
“Siyempre malungkot. Pinaghandaan namin, pero pinaghandaan din po nila,” said Magno, her eyes red. “Yung nga po ang sinasabi ko, ang Olympics po, hindi basta basta, lahat po ng sumasali dito, nagpe-prepare po talaga para makakamit ng medalya.”
“It has been an incredible journey for Irish,” said Picson. “She and Jitpong had some lively spars in Thailand the last three months. Reports were that it was quite even. Obviously, today the Thai girl got the better of Irish.”
Over in the classification round of the rowing competition at the Sea Forest Waterway, Cris Nievarez placed fifth in the semifinal C/D 1 of the men’s single sculls classification.
Nievarez timed seven minutes, 26.05 seconds and was relegated to the Final D, a battle for the 19th to 24th places in the classification round on Friday.
The 21-year-old Nievarez bowed out of contention for a medal after failing to advance to the quarterfinal round last Sunday.
Going for the best finish possible in this Games, Nievarez will race against Onat Kazali of Turkey, Vladislav Yakovlev of Kazakhstan, Mohammad Al Khafaji of Iraq, Peter Purcell-Gilpin of Zimbabwe, and Husein Alireza of Saudi Arabia