Irie ends gold drought for Japan; boxing silver for Philippines

© Philippine Star/Ueslei Marceline/Reuters
© Philippine Star/Ueslei Marceline/Reuters

Tokyo, Japan, August 3, 2021: Boxer Sena Irie put Japan back on the golden trail after a three-day absence by winning the women’s featherweight (54-57kg) title at Kokugikan Arena on Tuesday.

The 20-year-old student at Nippon Sport Science University in Tokyo beat the Philippines’ 2019 women’s world champion Nesthy Petecio by unanimous verdict from all five judges.

Four of the judges scored it 29-28 over the three rounds while the fifth judge made the Japanese the clear winner at 30-27.

Still, Petecio, 29, had the honour of winning her country’s second medal of Tokyo 2020 after the historical gold medal victory for weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz on July 26, and the first by a female boxer.

The two boxers had a long wait for the referee to announce the champion – and when the ref indicated Irie she jumped for joy. Despite the health protocol rules, silver medallist Petecio still embraced her on her victory.

It was Japan’s 18th gold medal of the Games but the first since their ninth judo gold on July 30 - four long days ago.

It all came down to the final round - Olympic glory on the line and three short minutes between gold and silver – and it was Irie who did just enough to win gold.

Petecio, a bold come-forward fighter, was game throughout, hitting the harder shots over the three bruising rounds. However, the back-foot style of the elusive and skillful Japanese saw her land regularly and effectively, building a points advantage that would see her named Olympic champion.

Irie explained the key to her victory: “After every punch I was able to go past the punches and get a punch in, which is why I was able to win," she said.

“The opponent was very strong so even though I was guarding, I was being pushed back so I thought that I had lost. But I am really glad to have won.”

Petecio, beaten but proud, was ecstatic with her silver medal. “This medal is not just for me: it’s for my country, it’s for my coach, for my best friend who died this year," she said. "I dedicate this medal especially to my family, my country, to the Lord. Tears of joy, tears of joy.”