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His father's son

Marcial won’t quit pursuit of Olympic glory—even as rich pro career beckons

By: - Sports Editor / @ftjochoaINQ
/ 04:10 AM June 16, 2020
Eumir Felix Marcial

There is no stopping Eumir Marcial (left) from turning pro and chasing a nation’s Olympic dream. The country’s top amateur boxer feels both plans are beneficial to each other. INQUIRER PHOTO/ Sherwin Vardeleon

MANILA, Philippines–There are some moments in Eumir Marcial’s life that provide a glimpse into the boxer’s character.

Like the time he really wanted to buy one of those macho big bikes.

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“I really wanted that kind of motorcycle,” Marcial, who turns 25 in October, told the Inquirer in Filipino on Monday. He sat on the urge, contemplated on the pros and cons before abandoning the idea altogether.

But to understand the man in a more profound way is to know his father, Eulalio.

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And anyone who knows Marcial’s attachment and reverence for his father can be sure of one thing: The world’s No. 2 middleweight, who is on the verge of signing a pro contract, is not going to back out of his quest to seek Olympic glory.

“Ever since I was seven years old, sir, it’s the one thing I heard from my father when he was training my cousin, Anthony [Marcial, former WBO oriental super featherweight champion],” Marcial said. “Aim for the Olympics. When I was the one being trained, he never stopped telling me to aim for the Olympics. He kept saying nothing beats competing in the Olympics and be of service to your country.”In many ways, Marcial’s career as a national athlete and soldier has mirrored his father’s passion for service.

The family had an “okay life” when Marcial was younger, living on a land that they called their own. But a legal dispute tossed them out and had them bouncing from one rented house to another.

Marshall of peace

“Life became difficult, sir, especially since my father didn’t earn much from his barangay tanod duties,” Marcial said. And working as a marshall of peace in Barangay Lunzuran in Zamboanga City wasn’t even a last-ditch job for Eulalio. It was a first choice.

“He had other job offers. But the troublemakers in our barangay, they only listened to my father. He was respected and he was the one who kept order there so he turned down those offers because he wanted to serve the barangay,” Marcial said.

That stuck with Marcial. As he gets closer to signing his pro deal—a source revealed that negotiations are “90-percent done”—Marcial made sure of an important “service to country” clause in his contract.

“No matter what happens, no one should stop me from competing in the Southeast Asian Games, the Asian Games, the Olympics and the world championships,” said Marcial, who released a statement on Monday thanking the Philippine Sports Commission for backing his pro plans while staying as a national athlete.

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Yes, even the relatively pedestrian SEA Games, where he is the reigning middleweight champion, is important to Marcial because he gets to wear the national colors.

There were some skeptics who challenged his pro plans, even when Olympic rules now allow professionals to compete in the Summer Games. For one, they say it is a distraction, something that shatters the tunnel vision an athlete needs to excel among the world’s best in the highest stage of international competitions.

“I am no longer 15 or 18, sir,” Marcial said. “I’m grown enough to deal with distractions.”And then there is the pressure that now accompanies his Olympic bid. All the unnecessary ruckus raised over his decision to turn pro has armed critics with a ready bullet in case he fails in Tokyo next year.

More chances for the gold

But Marcial pointed out that the Olympic gold is never guaranteed to anyone, amateur or not: “It would be difficult for me even if I decided against turning pro. There’s no easy path to becoming a gold medalist in the Olympics. That’s the reason why we have no Filipino gold medalist in the Olympics yet.”

Turning pro, in fact, gives Marcial more chances to sharpen his boxing tools as he guns for Olympic success. His only concern will be to keep himself safe in the pro fights he will take before flying to Tokyo in July next year. And safety, like the thought process he went through before deciding on the pro offer, is something Marcial takes seriously—which is why he doesn’t own a big bike.

“I thought hard about that and consulted my family, people I trust,” Marcial said of purchasing a motorcycle. “In the end, I decided not to buy it anymore. It’s a safety issue. I don’t want to put myself in harm’s way.”And Marcial will do everything he can to stay away from harm’s way as a pro.

After all, being a pro for a long time will help the people dearest to him: his family. His dad. His longtime partner, Princess Galarpe.

“They are my sources of strength,” he said. “I want to make their lives better, too.”

“Especially my father. He’s strong, even up to now, but you’ll never know how long they will be here in this world,” he said, his voice starting to crack.

Recomposing himself, he apologized for the pause and added: “I want him to watch me fight in the Olympics and see my first pro fight. And I want to make sure he gets to enjoy the fruits of my labor.”

Marcial is expected to earn at least P10 million the moment he signs with his promoter. From all indications, MP Promotions is the runaway leader in the race for his services with just a few minor kinks to iron out, a source told the Inquirer. That cash will help Marcial put a satisfied smile in the face of the person who molded him the most.

But he attaches a different value to competing in the Olympics, a worth predetermined by his dad.“For an athlete to carry his country’s flag and to fight for the country?” Marcial said. “My father always believed that, sir, is something different.”

“That, sir, is priceless.” INQ

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