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Photo from Tokyo 2020

2020 Tokyo Olympics

Carlo Paalam bids farewell to Japanese bet, advances to Olympic final

Carlo Paalam’s magical run in the 2020 Olympic men’s boxing flyweight tournament continues.

The proud son of Cagayan de Oro had all the answers against Japan’s Ryomei Tanaka, taking a unanimous decision win, Thursday at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan.

Paalam will now try to one-up the finishes of Anthony Villanueva in 1964, Onyok Velasco in 1996, and Nesthy Petecio in the same Games as he tries to win gold.

In this one though, Paalam made sure that the five judges won’t be swayed as he brought the fire in the entire nine-minute bout.

“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,” said Paalam.

Paalam came out of the gates with continuous pressure on his opponent, tagging the Japanese with stinging combinations while chasing him around when he tried to move out of the way.

Paalam’s left proved to be a problem for Tanaka early in the second round while a 1-2 combination almost put him out. Tanaka tried to go for the big shot to close out the round but to no avail.

“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,” recalled Paalam about the hammer fist thrown at him by Tanaka with 48 seconds left in the opener.

Tanaka went for broke early in the last stanza but was only peppered by Paalam. Clearly frustrated, the hometown bet took down Paalam. Paalam though would remain cerebral and not fall prey to his opponent’s game.

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“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,” said Paalam, who sent a shoutout to Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno — one of his biggest supporters.

Paalam’s journey in this Olympics has been nothing short of magical.

The 23-year-old native of Cagayan de Oro defeated Ireland’s Brendan Irvine to open his campaign. He then followed it with a 5-0 shutout of Algeria’s Mohamed Flissi.

In the semis, the 5-foot-4 pugilist stunned Rio Olympics gold medalist Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan in the second round. The bout went to the cards in the second round due to an accidental clash of heads.

On the other hand, Tanaka, who is 27 years old, defeated Rio Olympics silver medalist Yoel Finol of Venezuela in the first round before taking a highly controversial win against China’s Hu Jianguan. He then dominated Rio Olympics light flyweight silver medalist Yuberjen Martínez of Colombia en route to the final four.

Paalam now awaits the victor in the Galal Yafai and Saken Bibossinov bout for the gold medal match, which takes place on Saturday at 1:00PM.

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