MANILA, Philippines -- Three Filipino boxers, including two-time gold medalist Eumir Felix Marcial, advanced to the finals of their respective weight divisions in the 30th Southeast Asian Games on Friday afternoon at the PICC Forum.
The 24-year-old Marcial showed no mercy for his Malaysian opponent, Che Azmi Mohd Aswan, in the semifinal of the men's middleweight (75 kg) division.
Marcial showcased his tremendous punching power and forced the Malaysian into a standing eight count with 1:18 left in the first round. It was all over 12 seconds later, as the referee stopped the bout as Marcial went for the kill.
" 'Yung sa akin, ginawa ko lang 'yung play ko talaga, 'yung tinuro ng coaches," said Marcial. " 'Wag magkumpyansa kasi pwede mangyari 'yung cuts."
"So ginawa ko lang 'yung best ko, para sa mga Pilipino na sumusuporta sa amin, ginagawa namin lahat, binibigay namin para makuha 'yung gold," he added.
Marcial is set to face Vietnam's Nguyen Manh Cuong in the gold-medal match.
Meanwhile, Carlo Paalam earned revenge over Malaysia's Muhamad Faud, the fighter who sent him home empty-handed in his first SEA Games two years ago in Kuala Lumpur.
Paalam made a statement early as he forced Faudinto a standing eight-count, barely a minute into their light flyweight match. He dominated the rest of the way en route to a unanimous decision win.
"'Yan 'yung nagtalo sa akin sa Malaysia sa first SEA Games ko, naluto ako. So bumawi ako dito," said Paalam after his bout.
Josie Gabuco also advanced to the gold medal match in the women's light flyweight after a dominant victory over Vietnam's Trinh Thi Diem Kieu.
Gabuco, 32, is eyeing a fifth SEA Games gold medal, and is highly motivated to reach the top of the podium once more after missing out on the 2017 edition of the Games, where women's boxing was stricken from the list of sports.
"Sobrang pinaghandaan talaga namin itong competition na ito, dahil nga nabakante kami," said Gabuco.
Gabuco, a world champion in 2012, dismantled her Vietnamese foe who was reduced to clinching repeatedly by the second round. The Filipina won via unanimous decision.
The day started on a sorry note for the Filipino boxers, as Aira Villegas lost in the women's bantamweight (54 kg) semifinals against Thailand's Nilawan Techasuep.
It was a split decision loss, with three judges scoring in favor of the Thai fighter against two for Villegas.
"OK lang kahit natalo. It's part of the game. Babawi tayo sa susunod," a teary-eyed Villegas said after the bout, as she settled for the bronze medal.
Like Villegas, Ian Clark Bautista also settled for a bronze medal after losing to his Thai rival, Chatchai Decha Butdee, by unanimous decision.
This marks the third time in four meetings that Bautista has lost to Butdee.
"Gusto ko sana gold, pero hindi binigay ng Panginoon," said Bautista. "Pero OK lang, baka may purpose talaga."
"Mas gumagaling pa (siya) lalo," he added. "Pero balang araw, matatalo ko rin 'yan."
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