Olympic boxer Nesthy Petecio


After Hidilyn Diaz scored the Philippines’ first ever Olympic gold, we’re celebrating another historic win with Nesthy Petecio bagging the country its first Olympic silver medal in women’s boxing. 

However, like many of our Filipino Olympic athletes, the road to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was bumpy for the Filipina boxer. That being said, here’s a run-down of Petecio’s boxing career – from her first fight at age 11, to her slump in 2018, and, now, to her historic Olympic win.


1. She won against a male opponent at the age of 11


2015 President's Cup in Indonesia
Petecio during the 2015 President’s Cup in Indonesia
Image credit: @neshpetecio

Petecio’s first fight at the age of 11 was against a boy. The female boxer recalled that her debut fight that happened during the Araw ng Davao (Day of Davao) festival drew a huge crowd since it was the first time a girl was fighting a boy in the boxing ring. Back then, she only knew two moves, which she did in repetition.

During the fight, people kept telling her to stop and asked her if she could continue. However, her answer was always yes, Petecio recalled on her Go Hard Girls podcast episode

Needless to say, Petecio proved everyone wrong by winning that fight and even catching the attention of the national team.


2. She joined inter-barangay boxing competitions for food


Nesthy Petecio - and family
In an Instagram post, Petecio wrote that her family is her strength and inspiration.

Image credit: @neshpetecio

After that fight, Petecio began to join inter-barangay (neighborhood) competitions in Davao del Sur because she’d receive prize money for food whether she won or lost. She had to do this for her family because they often had to borrow money to be able to eat.

Besides her boxing fights, Petecio also used to help her family by collecting chicken droppings to be sold as fertilizer, her father farming a small scrap of land in Davao del Sur.

Petecio’s main source of inspiration is her family. Besides bringing honor to her country, Petecio says she allows herself to get beaten up in her sport to improve her family’s life.


3. Basketball was her first love


Boxing Training
Petecio in boxing practice in 2020

Image credit: @neshpetecio

As a child, Petecio was more interested in basketball than in boxing. In fact, she would always have basketball clothes in her school bag so she could join games before heading home and training for boxing.

However, Petecio’s father, who had dreamed of becoming a boxer, started training Petecio when she was only aged 7. Initially, he only trained Petecio’s older brother but felt the need to teach his daughter boxing for self-defense.

Petecio loved basketball more than boxing, though, so she would often cry when she had to train for boxing.


4. She joined the national team at age 16


Altitude training in Baguio
Petecio in Baguio City for altitude training in 2o15

Image credit: @neshpetecio

After being scouted at Araw ng Davao and winning gold in the 2007 Philippine National Games, Petecio joined the national team. At age 16, she lived in Metro Manila and would often have altitude training in Baguio City.

Being away from her family and living in the metro was very difficult for Petecio as it was different from what she was used to. Because of this, she cried a lot during her first month away from her family.

Thankfully, her coach and teammates were understanding of her, providing her comfort. They would also take care of her by giving her groceries and sharing food.


5. She became a victim of a huge sporting controversy in 2018


Nesthy Petecio - 2018 Asian GamesPetecio during her fight with China’s Yin Jun Hua in the 2018 Asian Games
Image credit: Asian Games

Petecio would consistently bring medals to the country – even taking home 4 consecutive gold medals at one point- but in the 2018 Asian Games, she lost allegedly due to her opponents’ dirty tactics and judges’ unfair decision.

Petecio’s opponent, China’s Yin Jun Hua, would turn her head so Petecio would land a punch there, earning the Filipina boxer a penalty. Yin also won despite Petecio making more contact through her punches. All Petecio’s coach could do then was to say he was sorry and that it was not Petecio’s fault as the boxer broke down.

Filipino news outfit BusinessMirror reported that China, South Korea, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan had allegedly colluded to influence the result of the games. The 4 countries’ boxers were allegedly not set up to fight against each other at the earlier rounds so they would get a better chance at winning medals.


6. She almost gave up boxing


Nesthy Petecio - with coach Boy Velasco
Petecio with coach Boy Velasco at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Image credit: @neshpetecio

Following her loss in the 2018 Asian Games, Petecio cried every time someone would approach her. Her coach, Nolito “Boy” Velasco had to call the Philippine team’s sports psychologist to speak to her.

Because of this, there was a time when Petecio couldn’t even look at her boxing gloves for 7 months. She’d also get stressed at the sight of a punching bag or a boxing ring.

Making her feel even worse than she already felt, Petecio’s girlfriend also broke up with her and left her for someone else shortly after the games.

All these resulted in Petecio’s poor performance during her next competition and her taking a 1-year break.


7. She got better with professional help


Nesthy Petecio - with Marcus Manalo
Petecio with national team sports psychologist Marcus Manalo

Image credit: @marcusjarwin

Petecio was ready to drop her entire boxing career. Having finished her studies at the University of Baguio, she was already planning to join the workforce.

However, her coach and teammates didn’t give up on her. Marcus Manalo – the national team’s sports psychologist who teaches athletes mindfulness and meditation techniques – helped Petecio talk about her feelings and process them in healthier methods.

After almost a year, Petecio was finally able to make a comeback, winning gold at the 2019 Thailand Open Boxing Championships. She even bagged two more gold medals in the same year, one in the 2019 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships and another in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.


8. She is proud to be a female boxer and a lesbian


Women's boxing team
Petecio with the women’s boxing team

Image credit: @neshpetecio

Petecio said in her Go Hard Girls podcast interview that she respects people who have yet to accept the existence of female boxers, but she believes people should also respect their love for the sport. However, she also wishes that her fellow female boxers would receive support to boost their morale.

Being a woman boxer isn’t the only way Petecio is breaking the norms – she is also vocal about being a lesbian woman in interviews and social media.

Amid the conservative nature of Filipinos, she is thankful that her family accepts her. Being open with her family, Petecio said, strengthened their relationship.

Petecio also shared on the podcast that she wants to have a biological child with her future partner. If you follow the boxer on Instagram, you’ll see that she is fond of kids, particularly her nieces and nephews.


9. She ranks No. 2 on the Amateur International Boxing Association’s world rankings


nesthy petecio -AIBA world rankings

The 2020 AIBA world rankings
Image credit: AIBA

At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Petecio defeated Taiwan’s Lin Yu-Ting who was ranked No. 1 on the 2020 Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) world ranking Women Elite 57 kilogram weight category. This is despite being ranked below Lin at No. 2 on the same list.

In an interview with Inquirer in July 2020, Petecio expressed that she wanted to fight Lin as Lin is regarded as the best boxer in Asia. She was able to do this and even beat the Taiwanese boxer a year later on 26 July 2021.

After Petecio’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics win, it’s possible her AIBA ranking will also rise.


10. Her 2020 Tokyo Olympics silver medal is historic


Nesthy Petecio - finals
Petecio after the final bout in women’s boxing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Image credit: @Tokyo2020

Despite not being able to take home a gold, Petecio still made a huge stride for women boxers in the Philippines as she is the first Filipina boxer to ever win an Olympic medal. Petecio competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is also a historic event in itself as she and Irish Magno are the first Filipina boxers to join the biggest sporting event in the world.

On top of these, Petecio’s silver medal against Japan’s Sena Irie is also the Philippines’ first boxing medal since Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco’s silver in 1996.

The Japanese representative won the fight via a unanimous decision from all 5 judges.


Nesthy Petecio’s journey to her Olympic silver


Nesthy Petecio had all the reasons to quit boxing in 2018, but – with the help of people who believed in her – she persisted and began winning competition after competition.

After all her hard work, the Filipino boxer has brought the Philippines an Olympic silver, secured a bright future for her family, and showed the world what Filipino women can do.

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Cover image adapted from: Asian Games and Olympics

 

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