5 PH boxers close in on Olympic berths

FILE – The Philippines’ Eumir Felix Marcial celebrates after knocking out Vietnam’s Nguyen Manh Cuong to claim the gold medal in the men’s boxing middleweight event during the 30th Southeast Asian Games. INQUIRER PHOTO/ Sherwin Vardeleon

The Philippine boxing team went two of three on the final day of preliminaries in the Asia-Oceania Olympic qualifying tournament Saturday at Prince Hamzeh Hall in Amman, Jordan.

Carlo Paalam and Irish Magno hurdled their assignments to join early quarterfinalists featherweight Nesthy Petecio, middleweight Eumir Marcial and lightweight Riza Pasuit.

The quarterfinals will be held Sunday and Monday.

The 21-year-old Paalam, dazzled against Afghanistan’s Ramish Rahmani to get the nod of all five judges for a unanimous decision 5-0.

Magno, 27, had an even more stellar performance as she easily disposed of Winnie Au of Hongkong in an abbreviated RSC2 (Referee Stopped Contest, 2nd round).

Veteran campaigner Ian Clark Bautista however, bowed to Chatchai Decha Butdee of Thailand anew, 0-5.

ABAP secretary-general Ed Picson said having five of seven boxers in the quarterfinals is more than satisfactory.

“We didn’t get the draw we were hoping for. Ian faced Butdee early and James Palicte had the 2017 Asian champion Uzbek Abduraimov in his first fight, but that’s the way it is. Now we have five, so we will aim for 5 qualifiers for Tokyo. But none of the five fights will be easy”.

Petecio has Japanese Sena Irie, with whom she’s 1-1 head to head, Magno faces 5-time world champion Meri Kom of India, Pasuit fights No. 3 seed Wu Yi Shih,

Paalam is up against No. 1 seed Amit of India and Marcial faces Mongolia’s Byamba Erdene-Otgonbaatar, who turned professional last year (professional boxers are now allowed in the Olympics).

The Filipino boxers only need to win their respective quarterfinal matches to be assured

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Zhang keeps title in brutal win over Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248

LAS VEGAS — Weili Zhang defended her UFC strawweight championship with a spectacularly brutal split-decision victory over former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248 on Saturday night.

Israel Adesanya then defended his middleweight title with a dull unanimous decision over Yoel Romero in the main event at T-Mobile Arena in the UFC’s hometown.

Zhang (21-1) and Jedrzejczyk (16-4) traded brutal punches and kicks throughout five technically fascinating rounds, badly damaging each other’s faces. After the last of several standing ovations from the Las Vegas crowd, Zhang won the fight 48-47 on two judges’ cards, while Jedrzejczyk won 48-47 on the third.

“I had a long way to get here,” said Zhang, who had to move her training camp out of China due to the coronavirus outbreak. “It was very serious, but we made it. I’m so happy now.”

After Zhang and Jedrzejczyk put on one of the most viscerally entertaining bouts in recent UFC history, Romero and Adesanya staged a snoozer that had fans booing and chanting obscenities.

Adesanya (19-0) still defended his belt for the first time, winning 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46 on the judges’ scorecards.

Romero (13-5) fought an extraordinarily passive fight. Adesanya appeared unable to figure out a way through the 42-year-old Brazilian’s defences, but his efforts mattered more to the judges.

“I did what I had to do to win this fight,” Adesanya said. “He’s out there trying to lure me into a false sense of security. I needed 25 minutes of focus. You can’t (fight) with somebody who doesn’t want to dance.”

The Vegas crowd still got its money’s worth from Zhang and Jedrzejczyk, whose pre-fight animosity carried straight into an uncommonly brutal bout in which the fighters traded big punches to the face from the opening round. Zhang’s superior punching power appeared to make

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NASCAR seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson to test IndyCar in April

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Seven-time NASCAR Cup winner Jimmie Johnson said he’s going to do an IndyCar team test with McLaren Racing on April 6.

Johnson said Saturday he wasn’t sure if the one-day team test in Birmingham, Alabama, would lead to an IndyCar future, but he’s intrigued by the “totally different environment” of open-wheel racing.

“There’s a chance I won’t like it, but I think the chances are low,” Johnson said. “More than anything I’m just thankful that McLaren and the friendship I have there with (CEO) Zak Brown, where he’s like: `Hey, man, come give it a shot. See what you think. You take a look at it. We’ll take a look at you.”’

The 44-year-old Johnson said he wasn’t sure what engineer he’d be working with during the test or if it would lead to any other discussions.

“There’s nothing on the books now that have been discussed with it being so early in the year,” Johnson said. “There’s still time to get some more tests. We’ll know more after April 6 and re-evaluate from there.”

Johnson already has announced that 2020 will be his final season running a full-time schedule in the Cup series.

“It’s great for NASCAR as well, especially if I go run well,” Johnson said. “We’ve seen drivers come this way and no one’s really gone that way. Kurt (Busch) did recently and did a hell of a job at Indy, which did a lot of good for our sport.”

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