Carlo Paalam has assured himself of an Olympic medal.
The 23-year-old native of Bukidnon scored a stunning victory over Uzbekistan’s Shakhobidin Zoirov by way of a second round split decision, Tuesday at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan.
The win assures Paalam of a medal — the Philippines’ fourth in the games and third for the national boxing team.
“Unang-una po sa lahat, nagpapasalamat po ako sa Panginoon sa pagbibigay ng lakas sa akin para maipanalo ko ang laban na ito,” expressed Paalam. “Maraming salamat din sa tiwala ng mga coaches ko, sa ABAP, at sa PSC.
“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!'”
The ending of the bout was anticlimatic due to a clash of heads that occurred with 1:44 left in the second round. Still, it was a victory worth relishing for a very long time.
Zoirov’s quick feet were a problem for Paalam early. But those early seconds proved that Paalam only needed time to adjust.
Paalam’s counter-punching caught the 2016 Rio Olympics’ attention that forced him to back down from his aggression. Crisp combinations followed by switches to the body by Paalam garnered points to take the first round, 5-0.
Solid lefts from Paalam opened the second round, while his rights kept the Uzbek at bay.
However, the two pugilists clashed heads, resulting in a slight cut on Paalam and a huge gash just above the left eye of Zoirov. A quick check by the medical team in attendance on Zoirov then forced the bout to the cards.
As the victor was announced, Paalam dropped to his knees in tears. Meanwhile, a visibly frustrated Zoirov just walked out of the arena.
“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,” said Paalam.
He will face Ryomei Tanaka in the semifinals. Tanaka defeated Colombia’s Yuberjen Martínez earlier in the day with a 4-1 decision win.