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Tribute to Paalam


PhilBoxing.com



Paalam (R) in action against Britain's Yafai.

Tokyo Olympic flyweight boxing gold medalist Galal Yafai, a Britisher of Yemen descent, recently paid tribute to the Filipino whom he beat in the final and said Carlo Paalam deserved his place on the podium in a guest column published in the Aug. 12 issue of the London weekly trade magazine Boxing News.

Yafai said the tide turned when in the first round, he dropped Paalam. Before the knockdown, the fight was nip and tuck with both boxers battling on even terms. Yafai continued to put pressure on Paalam in the second stanza then coasted in the third which the Filipino took in the five judges’ scorecards. Paalam’s late rally went for naught as Yafai won by a 4-1 split decision.

“Paalam beat the Olympic champion Shakhobidin Zoirov (so) he deserved his place in the Olympic final,” wrote Yafai, a two-time Olympian. “How I handled him, it just showed on my day I can beat the best and I’m glad to prove that in the last fight of my amateur career. In the first round, I put Paalam down and I was thinking, what’s going on here? I’m in the Olympic final and I just put his guy down. This is crazy. And I thought, you know what, I’m going to try and stop him, stop him in the Olympic final. It’ll look great on television, everyone’s going to think I’m brilliant.”

But Paalam wouldn’t quit and fought back courageously. By no means was it an easy win for Yafai. From conjuring visions of a knockout, Yafai was quickly brought back to earth. “I thought he’s come back into it now,” said Yafai. “I better slow down, don’t tire myself out. I’ve got to stick to the gameplan so I made sure I won the second round and I did. So I cruised in the last round and knew I’d won at the final bell.”

Boxing News writer John Dennen said Yafai started with intensity. “The Birmingham southpaw closed in on Paalam who cracked heavy counterpunches across,” wrote Dennen. “But Galal was too much, he exerted too much pressure, clattering in combinations of punches and working his lead right into the body. In the first round, he forced Paalam to the ropes and hammered a heavy straight one-two through. The left cross connected and dropped the Filipino to the canvas. It was the perfect start. Paalam changed his approach in the second round, knowing he had dropped the first. He held his ground and flung punches back, meeting Yafai on his own terms. But the Briton found the target with quality shots, fine lead uppercuts hitting home and he fired his left through to the head.

“Ahead on the cards, Yafai had to manage the final round. Calmer and more mobile, Yafai moved off with his gloves up. Paalam, increasingly anxious, tried to smash his hardest punches through. But any errors from Yafai were only minor. He hit, he moved and he saw out the round. Paalam had a great run of victories in this tournament, including unanimously outscoring Japan’s Ryomei Tanaka, brother of Kosei Tanaka, a three-weight titleholder, in the semifinal.”

Olympic coach Tony Davis said Yafai was his pick as the best boxer in Tokyo. “He was unseeded, came through an array of styles from formidable opponents,” said Davis. “What Galal did was nothing but a demonstration of excellence in Olympic boxing.” Yafai was spectacular in leading the British boxing squad that hauled in two gold, two silver and two bronze medals. For an Olympic rookie, Paalam was impressive in claiming the silver medal. Yafai will turn pro while Paalam sets his sights on improving his craft with an eye on the gold in Paris in 2024.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.


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