By CARLO ANOLIN
Carlo Paalam knew that the semifinal match against Ryomei Tanaka of Japan was already a do-or-die moment for him.
And so he had to unleash his A game against the Japanese boxer to secure a sure silver medal for the Philippines.
The 23-year-old slugger from Cagayan de Oro did not disappoint after scoring a unanimous decision win with sharp counterpunches and solid combinations en route to the gold medal match of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at the Kokugikan Arena Thursday, Aug. 5.
“Lahat ng kalaban ko malalakas pero iba ‘yong ano (power) niya kasi hometown. Gusto niya talagang ilaglag ako, knock out,” recalled Paalam as interviewed by One Sports correspondent Paolo del Rosario post-match.
“Pinalabas ko na talaga ‘yong laro ko talaga,” Paalam added, stressing that he resorted to counterpunching, as evident in the match, to oppose Tanaka’s lightning jabs and speedy footwork.
In the quarterfinals match, Paalam turned aggressive which resulted in a second-round split decision win against reigning Olympic champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan.
Prior to the quarters, the Bukidnon native boxer earlier scored a unanimous decision victory against fourth-seeded Mohamed Flissi of Algeria in the Round of 16 bout with his technical approach.
But Paalam proved he’s a well-rounded boxer by matching his counterpunches with multiple 1-2 combinations and a couple of solid right hooks as Tanaka continued to close in with his jabs.
The Filipino boxer later on thanked and gave credit to Australian coach Don Abnett for the guidance, saying that they would always conduct video review sessions to analyze their opponents.
“Si coach Don, malaking bagay po kasi I always watch the move of the opponent [through] a laptop. He always gives me instructions and I always listen to him,” said Paalam, who will face Great Britain’s Galal Yafai on Saturday, Aug. 7., in the final.