An Olympic boxing gold could come next.
Onyok Velasco believes as much following the Filipino boxers’ historic success in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. There, they won three of the country’s four medals — the most by a Philippine contingent thus far in the quadrennial meet.
“Ito na ata ang hudyat na sa susunod na Olympics, maka-gold na tayo,” the 47-year-old, himself a silver medalist in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, optimistically told Radyo5’s Power and Play with Kom Noli Eala, Saturday.
Inspired by weightlifting star Hidilyn Diaz’ gold medal success, the troika of Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam, and Eumir Marcial made sure that Team Pilipinas would not go home with only one medal from Tokyo.
Petecio bagged silver in the debuting women’s featherweight division after bowing to hometown bet Sena Irie in the final. The proud Davaoeña also gave the country its first Olympic medal in women’s boxing.
The 23-year-old Paalam also went on to settle for silver in the men’s flyweight class in a run, highlighted by his huge quarterfinal triumph. He dethroned 2016 Olympic champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan.
Then there’s Marcial, who collected bronze as he barely edged eventual silver medalist Oleksandr Khyzniak in the semis. And it was undeniably one of the most exciting matches in the Games, featuring a slugfest all the way to the final round.
Velasco, whose brother Nolito serves as one of the boxing team’s mentors, lamented the missed chances particularly of Petecio and Marcial. He believes that the two former AIBA world champs had a clear shot of winning gold.
“Sa akin si Nesthy. Kasi malaki talaga ‘yung chance niya sana doon mag-gold kung hindi lang Japan ‘yung nakalaban niya. Siguro baka nanalo siya doon,” he offered, as Petecio bowed via unanimous decision.
“Naghinayang din ako kay Marcial,” he added, “kasi kung nalusutan niya ‘yun (Khyzniak) … Although marami naman siyang malakas talaga na kalaban, sa tingin ko baka nakaya niya. Kasi parang napagod siya roon sa last round eh.”
Nevertheless, Velasco feels extremely proud to see the boxers win medals after over two decades of waiting. The Negros Occidental native was the last to win an Olympic medal for the Philippines before Petecio replicated his feat.
“Masaya ako dahil bumangon ulit ‘yung boxing natin. Kasi halos ilang taon din na hindi tayo nakatikim ng medal sa boxing. Halos 25 years din kasi ’96 pa ‘ko, tapos ngayon lang ulit naka-medal,” he expressed.
And he offered a reminder to keep the golden dream alive.
“Kung gusto pa nila ituloy, tuloy-tuloy lang din. ‘Wag niyong isipin na may pera na kayo, ‘wag niyong isipin na mayaman na kayo. Isipin niyo na back to normal ulit — back to zero ka ulit,” said Velasco.
“Tuloy-tuloy lang ang training. Pinaka-importante ‘yung disiplina talaga rin.”