Paalam dominates hometown foe, heads to gold medal bout

By : Ivan Stewart Saldajeno Mindanao Today/08:22:43am 08/07/2021


MANILA – Carlo Paalam moved to within one win from giving the Philippines its second Tokyo Olympic gold after pouncing on Japan's Ryomei Tanaka in the semifinals of the men's flyweight boxing event at the Kokugikan Arena in the Japanese capital on Thursday.

Paalam turned the match into his punching clinic, tagging Tanaka with accurate shots that earned him a nod from all the five judges after the first two rounds.

Tanaka, trailing in the scoreline, somehow got his game going in the final round, impressing Judge Antonio Aciga Fula enough to give him the 10-9.

But the other four judges, Pavlo Vasylynchuk, Nelka Thampu, Maksim Sulejmani, and Wilfredo Vasquez, still found Paalam too dominant and still gave him Round 3 en route to a perfect 30 that sealed the unanimous decision win.

Paalam, who has assured himself of at least a silver, will battle Great Britain's Galal Yafai in the flyweight title bout on Saturday.

Yafai included himself in the gold medal match after beating Saken Bibossinov of Kazakhstan in the other semifinal.

Yafai nearly blew a solid Round 1 after Bibossinov got his game going in the second round, but Yafai recovered in Round 3 en route to getting the 3-2 split decision win.

“Yung strategy na ginawa ko, idinaan ko sa bilis. Ginawa ko kung ano talaga ‘yung laro ko. Kailangang pag-isipan mo ‘yung mga galaw mo tsaka tiwala sa sarili. Kaya nga po kami nagte-training, nage-ensayo para po dito (I went through with speed. I did what was really my game. You need to think of your move and your self-confidence. That’s why we are training, practicing for this),” Paalam said.

The 23-year-old pride of Cagayan de Oro indeed proved to be a blur for his overmatched Japanese foe, who in the middle of the second round hit Paalam at the back of his head, but the Filipino wisely hung to the Japanese to get his second wind.

“Noong second round, natamaan po ako doon. Kita niyo naman sa second round, binatukan ako, kaya hinawakan ko na talaga ‘yung paa niya para makapahinga ng kaunti (In the second round, I was hit. You saw in the second round, I was hit at the back of my head. So I held on to his foot to rest a little),” said Paalam, adding the referee may have not seen the illegal strike because of the swift exchanges.

The silver that is assured Paalam is the third medal of the boxing team in these games, counting the silver of featherweight Nesthy Petecio and the bronze of Eumir Marcial, who 30 minutes later dropped a close split decision loss to Oleksandr Khyzhniak of Ukraine.

“Hinihiling ko lang po sa kapwa ko Pilipino na ipagdasal ako. Gagawin ko ang best ko, kasi hindi ko naman hawak ‘yung desisyon, tsaka ‘yung kalaban ko kasi magaling din. Tiwala lang sa sarili. Sana ibigay na sa atin ng Panginoon (I just ask my fellow Filipinos to pray for me. I will do my best, because the decision is not mine, and my opponent is also good. Just self-confidence. May the Lord give it to us),” Paalam said. (PNA)

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