Friday, March 24, 2023  |


After falling short of Philippines’ first Worlds gold, Eumir Marcial sets sights on Olympics

Photo by Ryan Songalia

Amateur boxing generally doesn’t receive as much attention in the Philippines as the pros do, but the run Eumir Marcial put on at the 2019 AIBA World Championships in Russia had supporters with visions of gold in their eyes.

The 23-year-old middleweight from Zamboanga City, Philippines had been dominant in the early prelims, outpointing Colombia, stopping an opponent from Morocco, followed by decisions over foes from Kyrgyzstan and Iran. When the southpaw dropped Kazakhstan’s Tursynbay Kulakhmet in the opening round and dominated him to a 5-0 decision in the semis, he looked set to become the country’s first ever male gold medalist at the Worlds.

Marcial came up just short of that goal on Saturday, getting dropped by a left hook in the second round by Russia’s Gleb Bakshi before losing a 5-0 decision. Marcial ended up with silver, making him the third Filipino to earn runner-up at the Worlds, following Harry Tanamor in 2007 and Roel Velasco in 1997.

“The chance was in my hands already but sadly just like a blink of an eye I lost the opportunity and settled for silver medal,” wrote Marcial in an Instagram post.

“Apologies that I failed you all (and I was and still am disappointed) but I will not stop dreaming to receive the (Philippines’) first ever Olympic gold.”

The Philippines has won one gold medal at the women’s world championships, when Josie Gabuco took home the top prize in the light flyweight class in 2012.

“We’re still proud of his accomplishment in the Worlds. Silver there is obviously nothing to sneeze at,” said Ed Picson, executive director of ABAP, the Philippines’ national governing body for Olympic style boxing.

Being a middleweight has its pros and cons for Marcial, who previously won gold at the 2011 AIBA Youth World Championships. He stands out in a country where the majority of its world class boxers are flyweights and below, but the lack of competition domestically also means an absence of quality boxers too spar with.

“Our problem really is the lack of sparring partners for Eumir and our other big men. Can’t find them even among the pros here! So we’re looking at more training camps for them abroad,” added Picson, who says he’s talking to the Great Britain team about doing a camp there to prepare for their next tournaments, which include the Southeast Asian Games in Manila, which take place from December 2 to 7, and the Asia-Oceania Olympic qualifier from February 3 to 14 in Wuhan China.

Finishing second in a tournament featuring some of the best talent in the world bodes well for Marcial’s chances should he make it to Tokyo 2020, Picson adds. He fell short of making it to Rio 2016 after losses in the continental and world qualifiers.

“Eumir always had it in him. Yes, it’s only now that he is getting attention but he was right up there years ago. However, he was sidelined by injuries, first when he suffered a hairline fracture when he was headbutted in the face, then he underwent procedures for a recurring hand injury,” said Picson.

“Now he’s healthy and he’s singularly focused on the Olympics. It’s a dream he shares with his father. And he won’t stop until it’s realized.”

Marvin was likewise unbeaten in Russia, winning his first fight against Lithuania before withdrawing before the second bout due to a cut. Carlo Paalam, a flyweight, made it the second furthest, advancing to the quarters before losing a close fight to India’s Amit Panghal, while lightweight James Palicte and featherweight Ian Bautista were ousted in their first and second matches, respectively.

Uzbekistan (super heavyweight Bakhodir Jalalov, featherweight Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov and flyweight Shakhodibin Zoirov) and Russia (Bakshi, heavyweight Muslim Gadzhimagomedov and welterweight Andrey Zamkovoy) each earned three golds at the 2019 Worlds, with Cuba’s Andy Cruz (lightweight) and Kazakhstan’s Bekzad Nurdauletov (light heavyweight) getting the other two golds.

The Philippines, a regional boxing powerhouse, has typically done well at the SEA Games and is hoping to improve off its second place finish in 2017, when Marcial and Fil-British light heavyweight John Marvin were the country’s only gold medalists at a scaled back boxing competition in Malaysia.

The 2019 SEA Games will have eight men’s categories (light flyweight, flyweight, bantamweight, lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight, middleweight and light heavyweight) and five women’s classes (light flyweight, flyweights, bantamweight, featherweight and lightweight). In 2017 there were no women’s competitions and just six men’s categories.

A decision about which boxers will compete will be made once management and coaches return to the Philippines, Picson says.