Astana, Kazakhstan – Carlo Paalam, 19, the youngest and meekest of the Philippine boxing team that competed in the highly-prestigious President’s Cup in Astana, Kazakhstan, foiled the host nation’s bid to sweep the tournament by winning the gold medal in the 49 kilogram light flyweight class Saturday evening.
Paalam, a protege of Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno, who nurtured the fighter from the time he was 9 years old, was the only foreign entry to win a gold medal in the tournament dominated by Kazakhstan. He won on points against hometown boy Askhat Zhusupov.
The Kazakh was a tough fighter and hard puncher but shorter than the Filipino bet.
Paalam was able to execute his fight plan which was to use his footwork, speed and to maintain good distance, thwarting Zhusopov’s strategy to mix it up inside by clinching.
The host country took 12 of the 13 golds in the tournament.
Tho other powerhouse teams- Uzbekistan, Russia, India and Korea could only manage 1 silver medal each.
Veteran Mario Fernandez, a Philippine Air Force soldier from Bukidnon and 2015 SEA Games gold medalist, garnered a silver medal after bowing to World Series of Boxing and AIBA Pro Boxing mainstay Ilyas Suleymenov, also of Kazakhstan. Suleymenov represented his country in the 2012 London Olympics.
In the quarterfinals, Fernandez scored one of the few knockout victories in the tournament, decking a South Korean in the first round.
On the distaff side, 2014 World Championship silver medalist Nesthy Petecio of Davao del Sur, lost a close 3-2 decision in the semifinals to still another Kazakh, Rimma Volosenko, to win bronze.
ABAP president Ricky Vargas sent a congratulatory message to the team and in particular to Paalam, who he described as the “future” of Philippine boxing.
“Stay focused, disciplined and determined and the future is yours. Good job!” said the PLDT executive.
ABAP sports psychologist Marcus Manalo, Philippine delegation head, observed that “this was a tough tournament with a lot of experienced and respected boxers so all things considered, we performed extremely well.”