Carlo Paalam guaranteed another bronze medal for the Philippines after winning on points by split decision, defeating reigning champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan in the flyweight division of the Summer Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena on Tuesday.
This, as Nesthy Petecio formally took the silver medal in the women’s featherweight boxing event of the Tokyo Olympics after bowing to Japan’s Sena Irie in the championship match on Tuesday at the Kokugikan Arena.
Despite Petecio’s gallant stand especially in Round 2, Irie took the gold by a unanimous decision.
Told by the coaching staff to put the pressure on the Uzbek early, Paalam obliged, catching the 2016 Rio Olympics champion with several combinations, before darting away to safety.
“Pilit po niya akong kinukuha sa first round, pero sabi po ni Coach Ronald (Chavez), dapat makuha mo ‘yung first round para sila ang ma-pressure sa ’yo. ‘Yun nga po, nakuha ko ang first round, tapos pine-pressure niya talaga ako. Sabi ng mga coaches ko, ilabas ko lang daw ‘yung laro ko (He tries to get me in the first round, but coach Ronald told me that I should get the first round to pressure them. That’s what happened, I took the first round, then he really put pressure on me. My coaches said I would play away from him),” the 23-year-old Paalam said.
The result was an emphatic first-round score of 5-0, which Paalam may have maintained in the second round before a nasty clash of heads with 1:44 left forced Ukrainian referee Pablo Vasylynchuk to halt play to have the two fighters checked by the ring physician.
With both fighters deemed unfit to continue because of the slight gash in their heads, the fight was halted and awarded to Paalam, who was ahead on points at the time of stoppage, 20-19 on four judges and a tied 19-19 score in the fifth official for a 4-0 win.
“Unang-una po sa lahat, nagpapasalamat po ako sa Panginoon sa pagbibigay ng lakas sa akin para maipanalo ko ang laban na ito (First of all, I thanked God for giving me strength to win this fight),” he said.
He also thanked his coaches, the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP), and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) for the trust and confidence given to him to represent the country.
“Salamat din po sa mga sumusuporta po sa akin at sa aming lahat na mga atletang Pilipino. Sabi nga po ng Panginoon, ‘Makakaya mo, basta kasama mo ako’ (Thank you also to those who are supporting me and all our Filipino athletes. As the Lord said, ‘You can, as long as I am with you),” Paalam said.
The road to the gold, however, becomes narrower from here, as Paalam takes on hometown bet Ryomei Tanaka, who 15 minutes earlier, won what looked like a lost bout against Rivas Martinez of Colombia. Tanaka was transferred out of the arena on a wheelchair because of exhaustion.