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Marcial reaches Asiad final, secures Olympic berth with KO of Syrian foe

HANGZHOU, China—Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist Eumir Marcial is headed back to the sport’s biggest stage next year in Paris, thanks to the power of his right fist that claimed another victim in the 19th Asian Games boxing competitions at the Hangzhou Gymnasium here on Wednesday.

Slowly earning a reputation as a knockout artist in the Asiad, Marcial scored his second straight win via the short route, this time in the semifinals against Syria’s Ahmad Ghousoon.

The 27-year-old Filipino floored his foe with a right hook to score the victory that put him in the 71-80 kg division’s boxing finals and qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Eumir Marcial

Now standing in his way in the finals slated at 8:45 p.m. on Thursday is Tanglatihan Tuohetaerbieke, a hulking hometown favorite, who crushed Turabek Khabibullaev in the other semifinal via a dominant 4-1 win.

“Ok lang ‘yan na China ang kalaban, para din lang sa basketball (It’s OK that we’re facing China in the final, just like in basketball),” said Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines chairman Ricky Vargas, referring to the Gilas semifinal game against China later in the day.

“Nagpapasalamat po ako sa Panginoon, kasi siya po ang naglagay sa akin dito (I thank the Lord, because He put me here),” a teary-eyed Marcial told Filipino sportswriters.

“Nawalan na ako ng pag-asa noong naghahanda ako sa pro fights ko, wala na ‘yung division ko, baka hindi na para sa akin itong Olympics. Sabi ko, magpo-focus na lang ako sa pro (I had lost hope for this [qualifying for Paris] when I was preparing for my pro fights, my weight division was gone, so I said maybe the Olympics isn’t for me. I told myself I would focus on being a pro),” added Marcial.

The Filipino star fought in a higher weight division here from his bronze-clinching 69-75kg division in the Tokyo Games, scheduled in 2020 but held in 2021 following the COVID pandemic.

But it didn’t matter in these games as Marcial appeared to have settled down with his new weight division.

He posted scintillating wins over Vietnam’s Nguyen Manh Cuong (5-0) and the Southeast Asian Games champion, Thailand’s Weerapong JongJoho, whom he eliminated with a second-round KO via that patented right hook.

It was the same weapon that put the lights out of his hapless Syrian rival at 1:49 of the second.

“Kita ko kaagad, una pa lang na ininda niya ‘yung suntok ko, kaya sabi ko, dadahan dahanin ko lang, at hayun, ang Panginoon po ang nag gabay sa akin, siya po ang naglagay sa akin dito at naggabay sa akin dito (I saw right away that he was hurt by my punches, so I told myself I would take it slow, and there, the Lord led me, He put me here and guided me here),” he said.

Marcial also profusely thanked Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino for firmly believing that he can still make it to the Olympics, and MP Promotions’ Manny Pacquiao and Sean Gibbons for allowing him to take a break from his pro fights and even arranging a training camp for him in the United States.

“That’s Eumir, he’s very focused and dedicated and he has trained well not only for the Asian Games but also for his Olympic qualification,” said Tolentino.

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