Eumir Marcial's gold medal bid in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics came to a screeching halt after crashing out of contention in the men's middleweight semifinal on Thursday (August 5).
Marcial suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 split decision defeat at the hands of Oleksandr Khyzhniak of Ukraine in a slugfest at the Kokugikan Arena.
Two of the heaviest hitters in the division engaged in a bloody, all-out brawl that proved too close to call as both fighters received a 29-28 nod twice in the scorecards, where the biggest difference came from a 30-27 decision that went in favor of Khyzhniak.
Khyzhniak, undefeated since 2016, will march on to the gold medal match while Marcial will come home to the Philippines with a bronze medal draped around his neck.
Built as a rematch two years in the making, Marcial, who surrendered to Khyzhniak in 2019 during the Strandja International, delivered a composed approach to work around the aggressive Ukranian. He landed sharp combinations in the opening round, keeping the opponent at bay and swaying the decision of the judges to his way.
In an attempt to whittle away the point deficit, Khyzhniak continued his offensive barrage in the second round as Marcial, who sustained a bloody cut on his hairline, stood his ground and countered with a flurry of his own, including a strong right hook that bloodied the Ukranian's nose bridge.
As both fighters refused to back down, the final round turned into a battle of attrition.
Marcial, who also secured the second round, tried to stay afloat in the last three minutes but his stamina began to waver while his Ukranian foe pounced to seize control.
At the end, Marcial could not avert a late collapse as Khyzhniak rallied from behind to snatch the win out of the Filipino's clutches.
Still, despite coming up short of the ultimate goal, Marcial helped the Philippines reach historic heights.
With his bronze medal, along with Hidilyn Diaz's gold in weightlifting, Nesthy Petecio's silver and Carlos Paalam's guaranteed silver in boxing, the country has collected its largest medal haul in the Olympiad, eclipsing the three-bronze finish in the 1932 Los Angeles Games.
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.