Sena Irie captured the first boxing Gold medal of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, fittingly in a competition where she posted the first win for hosting nation Japan.
The 20-year-old delivered the biggest win of her young career, earning a three-round unanimous decision over longtime amateur rival Nesthy Petecio of the Philippines in the Gold medal round in the women's featherweight division. Scores were 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, 29-28 and 29-28 in favor of Irie, who won five total bouts in competition to make history for Japan.
Irie was part of the first-ever Olympic women's boxing team for Japan, joined by Tsukimi Namiki who is also one win away from fighting for Gold at flyweight. The path for Irie was far tougher, including her having to once again find a way to conquer Petecio, long regarded as the best featherweight in the world and who emerged as a favorite to become the first boxer ever from the Philippines to win Gold.
Petecio's dream came up one round short.
Irie jumped out to a commanding lead, sweeping the opening bout by boxing smartly and using movement to disallow Petecio to sit down on her punches.
The switch-hitting Petecio adjusted in round two, switching to southpaw and visibly rocking Irie with a left hand. Petecio continued to apply pressure while Irie wisely tied up during the moments she wasn't able to take the lead on the inside.
With the decision and Gold on the table, both boxers bit down and left it all in the ring in the third and final round. It was Irie's superior boxing display that was greater rewarded in the end.
In addition to making history for women's boxing in Japan, Irie becomes the nation's first boxer—regardless of gender—to win Gold since Ryota Murata in 2012 London.
Petecio brings home Silver to Philippines, who is guaranteed three medals.
Joining Irie and Petecio on the podium, Irma Testa (Italy) and Karriss 'Kaz' Artingstall (Great Britain) were presented with Bronze medals during the official post-fight medal ceremony.
Japan's two-woman team is 8-0 and guaranteed two medals, while the six-member squad is 15-3 overall.
Philippines is 11-2 overall, with the women's team going 5-2 with one Silver medal.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox