By Christian Niturada

PHOTO: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

TOKYO, JAPAN- Pinoy pug Nesthy Petecio survived a tough challenge as she chopped down to size World No. 5 Irma Testa of Italy via split decision, 4-1, in the semifinals of the Women's Featherweight 54-57kg category at the Kokugikan Arena, Saturday.

The smaller Petecio snapped her first round jitters and opened the next round with a different strategy over a much taller Testa, which served as her springboard to a torment of solid body shots to secure her slot into gold medal contention and become the first Filipina boxer to win gold in boxing.

Petecio, currently ranked No. 2 by AIBA in the featherweight category, had a struggle on Testa's height and reach advantage in first round that caused her loss with 9-10 in five judges' scorecard.

But Petecio immediately shifted her playstyle by moving nearer to deliver punches on Testa's body in the second round, thrashing the 23-year-old Italian boxer to get the judges' favor.

The Davao del Sur-native then gave Testa a hard time, unleashing consecutive combos on the latter with the same tactic from round two to finally seal the deal for the golden dream.

"Noong mga sumunod na round, lagi po akong lumalapit, pinapasok ko po talaga s’ya. Kinukuha ko po s’ya sa speed, sa lakas ko, kasi alam ko na mas malakas po ako sa kanya," said Petecio in an interview.

Petecio knelt on both knees and sobbed openly after the announcement of winner as her triumph was dedicated to her father, who had hoped to see her compete in the Olympics, her best friend and former national teammate Alexcel Dargantes, who passed away in February, and a Philippine nation still grieving from the Covid-19 outbreak.

"Sobrang saya ko po," uttered Petecio. "Hindi po para sa akin ito, para po ito sa bayan," she added.

The 29-year-old boxer will face the winner in the other semifinal bout between hometown bet Sena Irie and Karriss Artingstall of Great Britain in the gold medal match.

Report source: SPIN PH