Tokyo Olympics

Carlo Paalam’s thrilling Olympic run ends in silver

Beatrice Go

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Carlo Paalam’s thrilling Olympic run ends in silver

TOUGH BOUT. Carlo Paalam suffers an early knockdown against Galal Yafai.

Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Carlo Paalam falls short in the flyweight final to take home an Olympic boxing silver

Carlo Paalam’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics journey ended with a silver after falling to Great Britain’s Galal Yafai via a 4-1 split decision in the boxing tournament’s men’s flyweight final on Saturday, August 7, at the Kokugikan Arena.

Paalam – who succumbed to Yafai, 29-28, 28-29, 29-28, 29-28, 29-28 – landed early shots in the opening round, but went down to the canvas after a fierce left hook to the chin, and was given the standing eight count.

The Filipino recovered immediately from the early knockdown, but Yafai continued his relentless pace to win the favor of all five judges in the first round.

Paalam brought out his discipline in the second round and although he found his range, he still trailed the British heading to the final salvo.

Even with odds against his favor, Paalam gave it all in the ring in the final round as Yafai kept his distance.

Paalam continued to push, but it wasn’t enough for the gold even as the Filipino ruled the third round with identical scores of 10-9.

Before Paalam’s gold-medal bout, only Nesthy Petecio and Onyok Velasco have notched Philippine boxing’s highest finishes with silver medals. 

Petecio became the first Filipina boxer to win an Olympic medal and the first silver medalist in the Olympic Games’ women’s featherweight as the weight category made its debut in Tokyo. 

Velasco took home a silver medal in the 1996 Atlanta Games. 

Paalam, the youngest in the Philippine boxing team at 23 years old, propelled the Philippines in the Tokyo Olympics medal tally, together with weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz – who won the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal – Petecio, and boxing’s men’s middleweight bronze medalist Eumir Marcial.

Paalam, who came into the Tokyo Games clearly an underdog, had hoped to become the Philippines’ first Olympic boxing gold medalist.

The Filipino boxer overcame two-time Olympians Brendan Irvine of Ireland and Mohamed Flissi of Algeria in his first two rounds, respectively, as both veteran boxers competed in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. 

Paalam moved on to pull off the greatest upset of the division as he defeated 2016 Rio Olympics gold medalist and world champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan for a berth in the medal round. 

That bout was stopped in the second round after a clash of heads opened a cut above the left eye of Zoirov, which led to Paalam taking home the split decision victory. 

Though he was assured of a bronze in the semifinal round, Paalam came out full force, displaying a methodical game plan against home bet Ryomei Tanaka to earn a unanimous decision win. 

The Cagayan de Oro native also inspired many Filipinos with his humble beginnings, starting out as a former garbage picker to help out his family of 10.

But after being discovered and mentored by former Philippine boxing greats, Paalam worked hard and flashed his talent to the world, earning a bronze in the 2018 Asian Games and a 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gold. –

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Beatrice Go

More commonly known as Bee, Beatrice Go is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Philippine sports governance, national teams, football, and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.