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.
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.
“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 in Filipino.
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.
“First of all, I thanked God for giving me strength to win this fight,” he said in Filipino.
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.
“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 in Filipino.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.