Boxers Marcial, Paalam look to bag sure Olympic medals

One more win for middleweight Eumir Marcial and flyweight Carlo Paalam and they will both be assured of bronze medals and a spot in the semifinals in the Tokyo Olympics. Two wins will guarantee them of at least silver medals. Three wins and they both will be immortalized in the annals of Philippine sports. 

But before that, their quarterfinal bouts beckon and these require their undivided attention. 

Marcial will be going into the round of 8 on Sunday, August 1, as the clear favorite versus Arman Darchinyan of Armenia.

Darchinyan, like Marcial, drew a bye in the opening round of the Olympic competition. The 27-year-old Armenian won his round of 16 bout via unanimous decision over Andrej Csemez of Slovakia.

Marcial, on the other hand, won via Referee Stopped Contest (RSC) in the first round over Younes Nemouchi of Algeria. 

In the last AIBA world rankings, Marcial was listed as the sixth-highest ranked middleweight in the world, while Darchinyan was listed at 12th. 

The two boxers already fought each other in the past. This happened in the finals of the Konstantin Korotkov International Memorial Boxing Tournament held in Khabarovsk, Russia in 2018. Marcial prevailed over Darchinyan in dominant fashion by unanimous decision. 

The two almost crossed paths anew in the 2019 AIBA World Championships. Darchinyan picked three impressive victories, one via RSC and two by unanimous decision, to make the quarterfinals of the tournament. He lost, however, to Tursynbay Kulakhmet of Kazakhstan via a 0-5 shutout. Marcial and Kulakhmet then faced off in the semifinals where the Zamboanga native won convincingly by unanimous decision.

Marcial enjoys a slight height advantage over the 5-foot-8 Darchinyan, who often bruises his way forward with very little head movement, willing to get hit in order for him to unload his combinations. Marcial’s superior boxing skills and distinct edge in speed and power should carry him through against this tough Armenian. 

As impressive as the 23-year-old Paalam has been in his first two fights in the Tokyo Olympics, he will find himself the heavy underdog in his quarterfinal bout on Tuesday, August 3, against Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan.

Zoirov has so far cruised in the competition, posting comfortable 5-0 victories over Batuhan Ciftci of Turkey in the opening round and Daniel David Varela de Pina of Cape Verde. 

The 28-year-old Uzbek boasts one of the most impressive resumes among all boxers in the Olympics, regardless of weight division. Zoirov won the gold medal in the 2014 Asian Games held in Incheon, Korea. Ranked second in the AIBA world rankings, he also won the gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics, where he won all his fights by unanimous decision.

In the 2019 World Championships, Paalam missed out on a medal when he dropped a 1-4 decision in the quarterfinals to world No. 1 Amit Panghal of India. Panghal and Zoirov boxed off in the finals, with Zoirov winning by unanimous decision to emerge as the world flyweight champion. Zoirov again won all his six fights by scores of 5-0.

Zoirov has also fought as a professional boxer beginning in 2019. He has registered a 3-0 pro record with two knockouts. 

Paalam, an Asian Games bronze medalist and SEA Games gold medalist from Cagayan de Oro, will also have to deal with Zoirov's two and a half inch height advantage.

Marcial and Paalam know what is at stake in their next bouts. One loss, and they kiss their Olympic dreams goodbye. Expect them to fight like there is no tomorrow as they seek to add to the country's medal tally. – Rappler.com