Gold elusive for Petecio
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 16, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Newly-crowned AIBA world women’s featherweight champion Nesthy Petecio has never won a gold medal at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and she’s determined to end the jinx when the Philippines hosts the next edition late this year.

Petecio, 27, has bagged silvers in three SEA Games, as a bantamweight in 2011 and as a featherweight in 2013 and 2015. There was no women’s boxing in the 2017 calendar so Petecio gets the chance for a gold breakthrough before the home crowd.

ABAP secretary-general Ed Picson said if Petecio’s focused, the gold is hers in the SEA Games this year. “She’s the world champion so it’s logical for her to dominate in the SEA Games,” he said. “It’s all up to Nesthy. She’s beaten the best in the world. That should give her the boost to win her first SEA Games gold medal.”

In losing three straight finals in the SEA Games, Petecio seemed to take her opponents lightly. She toyed with her foes and didn’t appear too serious in the ring. There was talk of personal issues clouding her focus. But her recent victory is a clear indication that she’s back on track.

Petecio’s sister Nicezaa, 24, and brother Norlan, 16, are both with the national pool. Boxing is the family’s way out of poverty. “About six years ago, Nesthy confided to me that for the first time ever, her family had noche buena of spaghetti and fried chicken on Christmas eve in their Davao del Sur hometown,” said Picson. “It was because of what she earned from boxing. Before that, her family never had noche buena. We’re so happy for her.”

Picson said Petecio’s rise to become a world champion has been meteoric since joining the ABAP pool in 2007. “Nesthy wanted to play basketball at first but her father Teodoro persuaded her to take up boxing instead because she was too short for basketball,” said Picson. “She learned how to box when she was seven. As a teenager, she was beating even boys in boxing events during town fiestas. It wasn’t long after that ABAP found her. She took the gold at the 2007 National Open in Cagayan and did it again at the 2008 National Open in Iloilo.”

Petecio reached the quarterfinals at the AIBA world women’s championships in Barbados in 2010 then took home the silver at the 2014 edition in Jeju. Strangely, at the Asian Games, Petecio hasn’t landed a podium finish. In 2014, she beat Kazakhstan’s Gulzhaina Ubbiniyazova, 3-0 but lost to China’s Yin Juhua, 3-0, in her second outing. In 2018, Petecio bowed to Yin, 3-2, in her only bout. Petecio is a different fighter at the world level.

This year, Petecio was joined by Irish Magno and Aira Villegas at the world championships in Ulan-Ude, Russia. Neither Magno nor Villegas reached the medal round. Petecio swept her six assignments, outpointing Brazil’s Jucielen Romeu, 3-2, Bulgaria’s Stanimira Petrova, 3-2, China’s Qiao Jieru, 3-2, Japan’s Sena Irie, 4-1, England’s Karriss Artingstall, 4-1 and Russia’s Liudmila Vorontsova, 3-2.

Picson said ABAP coaches Boy Velasco, Reynaldo Galido and Mitchel Martinez made sure Petecio was in line for the gold in Russia. ABAP president Ricky Vargas was teary-eyed when he heard the news. “Mr. Vargas has become quite close to Nesthy,” said Picson. “He knows about her struggles so when he found out she won the gold, he got quite emotional.” Picson said ABAP CEO Manny V. Pangilinan has backed up the ABAP program from the start and his support is crucial in giving the boxers a chance to strike gold.

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