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Tokyo Olympics: Japan boxing ace wins gold but will quit for tech future

By John Skilbeck

Tokyo, Aug 3: Japan's Sena Irie won the first boxing gold medal of Tokyo 2020 and then admitted: It's time I found a proper job.

The mild-mannered 20-year-old became an Olympic hero at her home Games by beating Nesthy Petecio of the Philippines in the final of the women's featherweight division.

Petecio won the second round on four of the five judges' cards, but it was otherwise a fight that Irie edged, taking a unanimous verdict.

She jumped for joy at the declaration before leaving the ring in tears, having made rapid progress in her boxing career since taking silver in the Asian and Oceanian Olympic qualifying event 18 months ago.

Irie also finished fifth at the 2019 AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships and admitted she wants a world title before hanging up her gloves.

Irie does not look to be in boxing for the long run, despite her pride at landing the gold.

"I just want to win the gold medal again at the World Championships," she said. "I have to start job hunting too, so I want to work on that.

"I want to end my career with success, so I will retire [from boxing] after graduation from college. I want to work for a gaming company.

"It's honourable for me to win the first gold medal for Japan in women's boxing. I'm not a talented athlete, I can't even do a back-hip circle on the [gymnastics] bar. I think I was able to show Japanese women that if we keep putting the work in, we can achieve something."

She expressed the hope that women's boxing would grow in Japan as a result of her success, saying: "People may think women who box are violent and have a rough temper, but I think I proved today that is not the case."

IGLESIAS ON SONG

Unlike Irie, Cuba's Roniel Iglesias is a lifer in the boxing ring. He landed the second gold medal of his Olympic career with a brilliant performance to fend off Britain's Pat McCormack, and then targeted a third in Paris.

His London 2012 title came at light welterweight, as did a bronze four years previously in Beijing, but Iglesias now fights at welterweight

McCormack was not entirely outboxed, with two judges giving him a round apiece, but the class of 32-year-old Iglesias at this level was telling.

"I think it tells you a lot about me being the top athlete," Iglesias said. "I made a lot of sacrifices for this. Winning the gold medal was so important to me.

"Having a medal in London first, then I had a lot of difficulties, I was injured for a while. Boxing is a very tough sport but I was able to overcome these difficulties. This title is so important to me.

"I'm known as an athlete for training a lot, training strong, and doing 50 fights to win. I always train very hard because that's what you have to do.

"My biggest motivation was those who doubted me for competing at the Olympics again, it became the ultimate push for me to get up in the morning and put in that extra bit of effort.

"I'm confident that I can fight at the 2024 Paris Games too because I continue to train. I definitely plan to continue fighting, being a boxer, and training. Let's see if I can make it to Paris."

McCormack said: "I was up against a top fighter from Cuba. I have got no complaints. I lost to a very, very good fighter."

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Story first published: Tuesday, August 3, 2021, 19:00 [IST]
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