By TITO S.TALAO
A hero’s welcome awaits Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Carlo Paalam when he returns to his roots in Cagayan de Oro City by the end of August — if travel regulations allow it — where he will be joined by the hometown coach who trained him since he was 11, and the Australian tactician who took over the past few years leading up to the Games.
Head coach Don Abnett, on the return flight Monday afternoon to Manila from Tokyo where he masterminded a boxing revival for the Philippines in the Olympics with two silver medals and a bronze, said he and Paalam, along with Elmer Pamisa, a member of the national coaching staff, are flying to the Misamis Oriental provincial capital to watch a tournament there once their seven-day quarantine is completed.
That competition, most likely, will be the weekly Boxing at the Park, a project of CdO Mayor Oscar Moreno, where Paalam cut his teeth and was initially discovered by 1990 Asian Games gold medalist Bobby Jalnaiz before the Alliances of Boxing Associations in the Philippines (ABAP) sent Pamisa over.
“We’re going there to have a look at a tournament, look at some of the talents, and also to attend some of the training and to observe coaching methods that they use,” said Abnett.
Paalam, who used to fight for the P150 winner’s prize, will be donating P5,000 to the tournament, said Abnett, where the gold medal winner gets P500, the silver P300, and two P100s for the bronzes.
“I will also put a little bit of money for the winner,” he said.
“And we’ll have a look at the best boys and possibly set up a clinic for 4-6 weeks. That’s in the pipeline but it’s not yet cast in stone. That’s just the thinking behind it.”
His desire to visit CdO, Abnett said, is fueled by footages earlier sent him by Pamisa, a multi-medal campaigner in the SEA Games.
“The videos of young boxers training and sparring were impressive and I want to see them myself,” said Abnett.
The former Australian boxing coach, whose contract runs until the end of the “original” Southeast Asian Games in December this year, plans to spend Christmas in his hometown of Canberra to reconnect with his family, which he hasn’t seen in more than two years, and to be with a daughter, who is “going through a hard time” over a failed relationship.
Abnett has three grownup children, two of them girls, including a 22-year-old who wants to visit him in the Philippines one day “although both of them are working in child care.”
Aside from Cagayan de Oro, Abnett said there’s also a plan to go to Negros and Cebu to widen ABAP’s search for potential national boxers.
“We need big boys, and big girls too,” said Abnett, who will next be preparing the men’s team for the AIBA World Boxing Championship in Belgrade from October 26 to November 6 this year.
In its website, AIBA said its “flagship tournament will be a key milestone in the boxing calendar this year, with the best athletes from around the world set to compete in the Serbian capital.
“The delivery of the event will be overseen by the Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, who is the head of the Local Organising Committee (LOC).”
On the PH blueprint for 2022, meanwhile, is the delayed SEA Games in Hanoi, which is yet to be scheduled, and the XIX Asian Games in September in Hangzhou, a 6-hour train ride south of Beijing.
Abnett is adamant for a good show in the Asiad.
“Our boxers’ gains in Tokyo should continue in the Asian Games,” said Abnett.