John Dennen speaks to future Filipino star Eumir Marcial about the tragedy that is inspiring his Olympic mission
IT is inevitable Eumir Marcial will become known as the middleweight Manny Pacquiao. The future Filipino star could be a new phenomenon. He is an aggressive power puncher so good that he’s won both a World championship silver medal and a qualifying place to represent the Philippines at the next Olympics. In Tokyo he will be a real contender for the gold medal. He’s also already signed with Manny Pacquiao’s promotional company and has been training “Pacman’s” long-time trainer Freddie Roach in Los Angeles.
“I’m very thankful because you know Manny, that’s our hero in boxing. If you’re a boxer and you take a picture with him, you’re very happy and motivated. It’s even more when he supports you. He told me that we’re here to support you, we’re going to help you,” Marcial said. “We are very motivated.“There is a little bit of pressure. But we know boxing. You can tell everyone you’ll become a champion, you’ll become an Olympian, in my mind I’m going to train hard, do my best with discipline and step by step I’ll get there.”
His dream start to training with Freddie Roach at the famed Wild Card gym however was struck by tragedy. Back in the Philippines, utterly unexpectedly, Eumir’s brother Eliver died. The pandemic travel restrictions had left his brother stranded and just as he was preparing finally to go home, he had to be rushed to hospital. He was wearing a Team Marcial T-shirt when he passed away.
His brother had always believed Eumir could become an Olympic then a world champion. “He was very supportive of me, he got married at a young age but despite our situation he still wanted to help me, give me money go to the school. When we had a tournament he gave me his support. In the province we’re very simple, but happy,” Eumir told Boxing News the day after the tragedy. “I can’t explain what I feel now, I’m very hurt. I can do nothing.”
“There was never a sign of anything, any sign of a health condition,” Sean Gibbons, of MP Promotions said. “It’s not something where someone’s sick and you’re kind of expecting something, this was completely out of the blue.
“His brother had six boys and girls too, from the age of 18 down to about four, so Eumir will be helping them as he gets better. The better he does, he will really be able to help his family. That’s one of the main reasons he made the decision to stay amateur but to come do a few pro fights for the security to help his family.
“His brother understands pushing forward and not going back and a lot of this will be dedicated for the future, to the memory of his brother as well.”
“I can help his family have a better life,” Eumir promises.
He had another decision to make. Marcial was only one day into training with Freddie Roach. If he went back to the Philippines, travel restrictions could have prevented him returning and stopped him eventually competing in America. “I’m very motivated even after what happened to my family. Because I don’t want to lose this opportunity. I’m already here. Sean gave me the opportunity to train with coach Freddie Roach and Justin Fortune. I don’t want to go back to my home and start again,” Eumir said. “My family’s a very poor family, a simple family. In my province we’re not rich, we’re poor but we’re a very close family. We’re helping each other. My dream is to help them. Some day I’m going to give them a beautiful life, a happy life, simple but happy. That’s gives me motivation, every day in my training.”
Their training in the Philippines is fuelled by determination. “More of the Filipinos are very hungry, especially in boxing. They try to keep working, working because we all came from poor families, we want to help our families. Because Senator Manny is our hero. He came from a poor family, until he became champion. He became a very successful man. So he inspired us that we need to work also, we need to work hard so some day we can also help our families. That’s why the love makes you more angry, especially when you’re training. Boxing it’s not a simple sport. Everything, you need to train hard, you need to catch many punches in sparring and everything. So it’s not easy especially for us when we were starting in our province. We lack support. We need to go to school, train, we have no money, hungry, so it’s very hard. But the love, because you want to help your family [and] become successful, so that makes us angry in the training, in the gym,” he explained.
Marcial began fighting when he was young. In his home town there was a boxing competition once a month. “If you win they gave you 30 US dollars, if you lose $20. So it’s big money!” Eumir smiled. “Just only every month, so every month you need to prepare to fight for that $30. After that I go home, I buy rice or coffee to bring to my mother and give some money. I don’t know why I’m happy when I help my family.”
His father trained him from just seven years old. “My cousin [Anthony Marcial], he was on the national team before and also a professional boxer too. He was famous in my province before. I said to my father I want to become like my cousin. So my father started me training, kept me disciplined, every day. All the things, where I am now, is because of my father. He pushed me, he pushed me. Every day we trained hard, I’d hear my father: ‘You need discipline, train hard, some day you become Olympic gold medallist.’ That was the only dream before,” Eumir remembered.
His father’s disciplined regime was strict. Eumir only managed to escape when Manny Pacquiao was boxing and the attention of the nation focused on watching his fights. “The senator actually helped him as kid to get out and play a little, because that was the time his father had tunnel vision. Everybody in the country had tunnel vision,” Gibbons laughed. “Crime in the Philippines fell to zero.”
The new regulations in Olympic boxing allow for Marcial to start a professional career, while waiting for the delayed Tokyo Games next year. He beat Andrew Whitfield in Los Angeles in December. But he is determined to take up his place at the Olympics and win gold. It’s a dream he shares with his father. “If I was naughty, I’d hear, ‘You be good, because you’ll become OIympic champion some day if you train hard [with] discipline.’ This is my dream I want to become an Olympic champion. I’ll give this to my father,” Eumir said. “While my father’s still alive I want to give him the Olympic gold medal.”
It was a relief therefore when Marcial secured his place at the Tokyo Games by winning the Asian Olympic qualification event in Jordan in March. “It’s a priceless moment,” Eumir reflected. “Because I want to make my father happy while he’s still here in this world. That’s his dream. All my cousins, my brothers, he taught boxing to become an Olympic champion. He worked hard. He put all his life into boxing even without a salary… His dream to see Olympic gold some day, that’s why he pushed me.”
Eumir unearthed a special talent along the way. He is the first amateur to sign with Manny Pacquiao. That brings a new level of expectation too. “The pressure, I use that for motivation. The pressure’s already there. I’m going to absorb that but I’m not going to lose my focus. I’m just going to absorb the pressure that I’m going to use for motivation,” Marcial said.
“He’s handled pressure for his whole life, the last nine or 10 years. The pressure’s there in general, just going to the Olympics, regardless of who’s around you. But when you know what you can do and you are ready 110%, that’s all you can do. The rest of it’s going to happen,” Gibbons adds.
“He knows what’s at stake.”
The middleweight division is packed with talent. The Cuban, Arlen Lopez is quality. Ukraine’s Oleksandr Khyzhniak is hugely impressive as is Russia’s Gleb Bakshi. Marcial though can compete with the very best at 75kgs. He proved that at the Worlds last year. “That time was very pressured because it’s a World championship. There’s the Cuban boxer who won the Olympics, the European champion,” Eumir said. “At that time I only have one thing [in my mind]. That’s all. The first match… Because I had six fights, I didn’t think [ahead]. Every fight, I think I want to win this fight. Whoever’s the opponent in front of me, I want to win this.”
“When the fight starts,” he warns, “and I start hitting them, they change. The style they change. That’s my gift. I think my power is my gift.”