By TITO S. TALAO
In Las Vegas to prepare for his second professional fight, Eumir Felix Marcial hears the news of Russia invading neighboring Ukraine and his mind momentarily veers away from training to the welfare of the man who shattered his gold medal dream in the Tokyo Olympics last year – Oleksandr Khyzniak.
Marcial then says a silent prayer for the Ukrainian boxer and his family.
“Pinagdarasal ko po na maayos siya, pati na rin ang pamilya niya at mga mahal niya sa buhay dahil tulad ko na boksingero, hinahangad lang namin e mabigyan ng magandang kinabukasan ang aming pamilya (Praying for him, his family and loved ones),” Marcial said.
“Sana po maganda ang kalagayan nila ng pamilya niya kasi ine-expect ko pa rin na makakapag-compete siya sa Paris Olympics [in 2024]; hinihintay ko na magkatagpo kami uli doon so yon po ang hinihiling ko, yung sana maging maayos ang kalagayan niya. (I’m expecting that we will meet again in the Paris Olympics, so I hope he’s well)”
Fierce and powerful exchanges marked the middleweight semifinal bouth between Marcial and the undefeated Khyzniak at the Kokugikan Arena last August, with the Filipino taking the first two rounds before running out of steam, allowing the Ukrainian to sway the judges to his favor in the third for a 3-2 split decision.
Marcial took the bronze while Khyzniak went on to fight in the final against Brazil’s Hebert Souza, who captured gold medal the after the referee abruptly ended the match when Khyzniak went down in the third round, ruling it a knockout even as the Ukrainian got back on his feet.
“Gold medal na talaga yung makukuha niya, naging silver pa,” Marcial says now, looking back. “Bad decision din ng referee yon, bakit hininto kaagad, although ganon yung Olympic style e. (Gold turned to silver for him because of the referee’s decision to stop the right)”
The Zamboanga native says he never got to talk much with Khyzniak after their fight but remembers shaking the Ukrainian’s hand and congratulating him. Marcial also recalls telling Khyzniak, ‘let’s fight again ha, let’s fight again,’ to which he replied, ‘yeah, yeah.’
Promoted to sergeant in the Philippine Air Force after the Tokyo Olympiad, Marcial says he has no idea if Khyzniak is an enlisted military personnel in Ukraine, which could put him directly in harm’s way, especially if Russia sends in ground forces.
That’s why, Marcial says, he continues to wish his Olympic adversary safety through these dark times in their country.
“Hopefully and God willing, pagdasal po natin na maging maayos ang kalagayan niya, pati na rin yung ibang boxing champion natin na taga-Ukraine gaya nila [Vasiliy] Lomachenko, Wladimir Klitschko at [Oleksandr] Usyk. Sana maging maayos din ang mga pamilya nila. At yung gera don, sana matapos na kasi lahat naman tayo ang gusto e tahimik, peaceful. (Let’s also pray for the other Ukrainian boxing champions and their families. Nobody wants war, after all)”