The Olympic boxing gold may have eluded Cagayan de Oro’s wonder boy Carlo Paalam, but his thrilling performance in Tokyo served as a motivation for the city’s officials to further strengthen the local sports program.
“We are encouraged by this. We will produce more Carlo Paalams,” Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno said right after the 23-year-old Olympic debutant secured the silver medal on Saturday, August 7.
Paalam’s split-decision loss to Great Britain’s Galal Yafai in the finals was a bittersweet moment for Moreno whose boxing program became the launching pad of several promising boxers like the Pagara siblings, and now, Olympics silver medalist Paalam.
Moreno’s mood was in contrast to his display of excitement and optimism when he did a pre-fight TV interview.
After the fight, he said, “Carlo gave his best, but the gold just wasn’t meant for him.”
Moreno said Yafai was a very good world-class fighter, and the mayor took consolation in the thought that Paalam has become “among the world’s best” who did his country proud for bringing home one of the Philippines’ 2020 Olympic medals.
He said he was also proud that the biggest Philippine medal haul in the history of the Olympics was carried out by Mindanao athletes.
“Bisan asa kita dal-on sa bulhog sa politika magpadayon atong programa sa boxing (Our boxing program will continue wherever politics takes me),” Moreno said. “We will produce more Carlo Paalams in the future.”
By going on national TV minutes before the fight, Moreno went against his self-imposed tradition and superstition not to talk to the press before his boxers’ matches – he believed that pre-fight comments from him would bring his bets bad luck.
Days before the finals, Moreno kept mum about Paalam’s ring victories, and neither did he respond to requests for comments about the boxer’s quest for the gold.
“Daug tanang away ni Carlo adtong wala nagpakita sa TV ang mayor. Tingali coincidence lang, but even the mayor believes that because he’s quite superstitious,” said boxing fan Ading Lubrico.
(Carlo won all his fights before the mayor went on TV just before the final match. It could be coincidence but even the mayor believes that because he’s quite superstitious)
Still, Moreno wished Paalam well, and lauded him for the effort.
“Carlo is still in his prime. He’ll be 26 or 27 years old in the next Summer Games, and we’re optimistic about his already bright future in boxing,” said Moreno.
He continued: “You (Paalam) have done very well and I’m very proud of you. Salamat sa imong paningkamot. Lipay ang mga tawo labi na imong pamilya (Thank you for your efforts. The people and your family are very happy). The entire country is happy for you. Hope to see you soon, my friend.”
Moreno said Paalam recovered from his first-round knockdown, fought and endured the exchange of blows with the Briton in round 2, and was already exhausted in the third and final round.
“Yafai was strong. OK lang (It’s OK),” said Moreno.
“It was a very close fight. Sayang (Too bad). Carlo would have won the match had it not been for the first-round knockdown kay dikit kaayo ang score (the scores were too close). Anyway, he’s still very young,” said lawyer Carlo Almirante, a former professional boxing manager and promoter in Northern Mindanao.
Paalam’s quest for the Philippines’ first Olympic gold in boxing ended when he took a solid 1-2 punch combination to the face for a knockdown less than two minutes left in the opening round.
When the taller, more experienced and much stronger Yafai withstood a wild exchange of blows in the rest of the three-round men’s flyweight final match, the pride of Cagayan de Oro finally bid goodbye and settled for a silver as the British fighter snagged the gold via a 4-1 split decision at the Kokugikan Hall in Tokyo.
The 28-year-old Yafai, a former factory worker with a robust build, stalked Paalam right from the opening bell as he threw the first few punches of the golden bout.
His southpaw stance, however, was unpredictable that he managed to size up the shorter Paalam and set the tone for a jarring left-right combo to the face, to the Filipino nation’s great horror.
Stung and quickly rising from the floor, Paalam survived the mandatory eight count and fought back like a wounded tiger.
Paalam was able to stagger Yafai twice in the second and final third round in a wild exchange.
But his desperate comeback bid proved futile as the Briton decided to keep away from danger in the waning seconds of the final round. Paalam finished the fight visibly exhausted.
Yafai held on to the ropes and flashed a grin, confident that victory was in the bag.
“Our kababayan (compatriot) tried his best and he already overachieved in the Olympics,” said Paalam’s big fan from his hometown Talakag, Bukidnon, police officer Ayok Pablero.
Another Talakag policeman, Froilan Mabalot, and dentist Wilbourne Neri said in unison: “Payts na kaayo ang silver (The silver is good enough for us).” – Rappler.com