Sena Irie won the first ever boxing gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, fittingly in a competition where she scored the first victory for the host nation Japan.
The 20-year-old scored the biggest win of her young career, winning a unanimous three-round decision in the women’s featherweight gold medal round against long-time amateur rival Nesthy Petecio of the Philippines. The scores were 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, 29-28 and 29-28 in favor of Irie, who won a total of five fights in the competition to make history for Japan.
Irie was part of the first women’s Olympic boxing team for Japan, followed by Tsukimi Namiki, who is also one win away from fighting for gold at the flyweight. The path for Irie was much more difficult. She once again had to find a way to conquer Petecio, who has long been considered the best featherweight in the world and a favorite going to the first Filipino boxer to win gold.
Petecio’s dream fell short a lap.
Irie jumped to a dominant lead, sweeping the opening bout by boxing skillfully and using moves so as not to allow Petecio to sit on her punches.
Petecio, who hit the switch, adjusted himself on lap two, switched to southpaw and visibly rocked Irie with his left hand. Petecio continued to exert pressure while Irie wisely tied up in those moments when she was unable to take the lead.
With the decision and gold on the table, both boxers took a bite and left everything in the ring in the third and final round. It was Irie’s superior boxing performance that was better rewarded in the end.
In addition to making history for women’s boxing in Japan, Irie is the nation’s first female boxer – regardless of gender – to win gold in London since Ryota Murata in 2012.
Petecio brings silver home to the Philippines, which is guaranteed three medals.
In addition to Irie and Petecio on the podium, Irma Testa (Italy) and Karriss ‘Kaz’ Artingstall (Great Britain) were presented with bronze medals during the official award ceremony after the fight.
Japan’s two-women team stands 8-0 and guarantees two medals, while the six-man team totals 15-3.
Philippines is 11-2 overall, with the women’s team winning 5-2 with a silver medal.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox