By Mark Allan Cervantes
(August 1, 2021) – It became the question on everyone’s mind on Sunday.
“May pupuntahan siguro itong si Eumir Marcial, bakit nagmamadali ito lagi?” asked veteran sportscaster Sev Sarmenta after the Filipino boxer easily dispatched Armenia’s Arman Darchinyan in the quarterfinals of the middleweight competition in the Tokyo Olympics.
Although it was clearly said in jest, the clever line was a clear manifestation of Marcial’s dominant showing in his very first Summer Games, winning both of his fights in the opening round and needing only a total of fewer than five minutes to secure a bronze medal for the Philippines.
The pride of Zamboanga City said they actually expected a grueling three-round showdown against Darchinyan, who is known for his hard-nosed style, having never been defeated via knockout in his entire amateur career that spans 40 fights.
“Hindi ko ine-expect na mana-knockout ko siya. Malakas na fighter siya. Sa mga laban niya, kahit anong lakas ng kalaban niya, never kong nakita na na-knockout siya,” said Marcial, who scored his first victory last Thursday via referee stoppage.
In all of the two minutes and 11 seconds of the fight against Darchinyan, the 25-year old Marcial displayed an absolute boxing master class, negating his foe’s constant pursuit with slick movements, while continually punishing him with crisp and hard-hitting combinations.
Then in a highlight-reel worthy moment, just as Darchinyan was about to throw a wide left hook, Marcial caught him with a perfect counter right, sending him face first to the canvas. Darchinyan tried to get up quickly but he looked like he was already dazed in a different dimension.
“Dito sa boxing, may mga suntok talaga na ‘di natin inaakala, kaya natapos ko kaagad ‘yung laban. ‘Di ko ine-expect pero sobrang powerful talaga si God. Siya ‘yung nagbigay ng lakas sa akin,” said the modest Marcial.
Marcial put his professional career on hold to have another shot at glory in the amateur scene. But deciding to become a prizefighter had its subsequent blowback for Marcial, as his commitment to the national team was questioned by many. His public plea for more financial help also didn’t help his cause, drawing the ire of many armchair critics.
But here he is, securing another podium finish for the Philippines, the first time since the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics that the country tallied three medals in one staging of the quadrennial event.
For coach Don Abnett, Marcial’s decision to turn professional, and the subsequent training he got from it, definitely improved his chances in the Tokyo Olympics. But Abnett, who previously steered Australia in two editions of the Olympics, admitted they had to work doubly hard to acclimate Eumir again to the nature of amateur boxing.
“He’s stronger. The last four weeks have been good, it’s been hard transitioning and bringing him back in the amateurs, but we’re just hoping that we’ve done enough,” said Abnett.
Next in line for Marcial is a bruiser from Ukraine, Oleksandr Khyzniak, a veteran of over 100 amateur fights, who’s also coming off an equally impressive quarterfinals win against Martinez Cedeno of the Dominican Republic. Marcial expects to have the greatest challenge in his Olympic campaign, but he is not fazed at all.
“Sa next na laban sobrang lakas ng kalaban ko, pero siyempre handa naman ako,” said Marcial. “Mas marami na kong experience, tsaka kasama ko ang buong Pilipinas na sumusuporta sa akin ngayon dito at higit sa lahat, ang Panginoon na nagbibigay ng lakas sa akin.”
In just a few weeks, Marcial can continue his promising career as a professional boxer, but for now, he has business to attend to in the Tokyo Olympics. Maybe he can wrap it up again in just a few minutes. (PM)