MANILA, Philippines--When Eumir Marcial stepped into the ring against Malaysia's Che Azmi Mohd Aswan in the men's middleweight semifinals on Friday, he was fighting not just for himself and the Filipino people.
He also kept in his mind his good friend, Britain-raised Filipino boxer John Marvin, who lost to Vietnam's Dinh Hoang Truong in the quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon.
Marvin was knocked down in the first round and, despite his best efforts, he could not complete the comeback. He lost via split decision, becoming the lone Filipino boxer to fail to advance to the semifinals.
"Sobrang close kami," Marcial said of Marvin, who became a sensation for his quick knockout wins in the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. "Lahat ng paghihirap namin, magkasama kami, ‘yung training namin."
This is why it was painful for Marcial to see his good friend lose, as he knows how much preparation Marvin put into the SEA Games.
It did not help that Marvin suffered a hand injury in the first round that hampered his attempts at a comeback.
"Noong first round pa lang, namaga na ‘yung kamay niya. Sabi ko, kahit na knock down siya, makabawi naman siya, kasi ‘yung training, andoon," Marcial said.
"Alam niyo ‘yun, talagang gusto niyang makuha ‘yung gold. Kaya sabi ko, bawi lang sa second round. Pero nakita namin, nakita ng mga Pilipino na hindi siya makasuntok ng straight," he added.
"Sa lahat, may injury siya, maga ang kamay niya."
Marvin's loss fueled Marcial in his own bout, and he gave his Malaysian opponent no chance. A flurry of punches by Marcial forced Azmi into a standing 8-count with a minute and 18 seconds left in the first round. He beat the count, but Marcial swarmed him again.
Twelve seconds later, the referee waved the fight off.
"Sabi ko, ito din ‘yung game na ‘to, kasi hindi siya nakakuha ng medal. Sabi ko hindi lang ito para sa akin, hindi lang para sa Pilipino, para sa amin din ito," said Marcial.
"'Yung hard work namin, ‘yung pagsasama namin, lahat, ‘yung problems namin," he added. "Kumbaga alam namin ‘yung isa’t isa. Kaya naging emotional ako noong pagkatalo niya."
Marvin delighted in Marcial's triumph as his good friend is now on track to win a third SEA Games gold medal.
"Me and him, we always stick together training and doing all that stuff together, and good," said Marvin. "If that’s what it takes to motivate him, then so be it."
"I’m happy for him and I’m glad that he’s got the win today."
The gold medal matches are set for Monday, Dec. 9. Aside from Marcial, Carlo Paalam and Josie Gabuco also advanced to the finals of their respective divisions.
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