Carlo Paalam, the 25-year-old Filipino boxing sensation and Tokyo Olympics silver medalist, showcased his prowess once again at the 19th Asian Games.
In a nail-biting showdown at the Hangzhou gymnasium on a cloudy Saturday, Paalam went head-to-head with Uulu Munarbek Seiitbek of Kyrgyzstan, a formidable opponent with a bronze medal from this year’s World Championship.
Paalam had to rely on his intelligence and skill to overcome Seiitbek’s height and reach advantage, eventually securing a hard-fought 4-1 victory in the Round-of-16 of the men’s 54 kg class.
Reflecting on the match, Paalam commented, “Matalino ring maglaro. Ginagamit yung tangkad at experience niya” (He’s smart in the ring, using his height and experience). It was indeed a battle of wits and technique, and Paalam emerged victorious, becoming the second Filipino fighter, after Eumir Marcial, to reach the Final Eight.
Paalam and Marcial are carrying the hopes of the Philippines, aiming to capture the country’s first Asiad gold in 13 years and secure an automatic berth in the Paris Olympics next year. However, the path ahead won’t be easy, as Paalam is set to face off against reigning world champion Abdumalik Khalokov of Uzbekistan in the quarterfinals. Khalokov, 23, demonstrated his dominance with a unanimous 5-0 decision win over Nguyen Van Duong of Vietnam in the Round of 16. Paalam acknowledged the tough competition, stating, “Halos lahat sila sa division namin malalakas” (Almost everyone in our division is strong).
Paalam’s journey in the Asian Games began with an impressive victory over Jordan’s Mohammad Jajeh Abu in the men’s 57kg round of 32 at the Hangzhou Gymnasium. Despite facing a significant height disadvantage, Paalam’s strategic finesse prevailed as he secured a unanimous 5-0 victory after three rounds. Speaking about the match, Paalam shared, “He was way much taller than me, so I just stuck to the game plan that the coaching staff had drawn for me.” Paalam’s primary goal is to secure a spot in the Olympics next year in Paris, and the finalists in each weight division at the Asian Games will earn that coveted opportunity.
Previously, Paalam excelled in the flyweight (51kg) division, but with the weight class not included in the Paris program, he made the transition to a heavier category. Commenting on this change, Paalam mentioned, “This is the first time I fought in this division, so I expect taller opponents with longer reach in my next fights. I have to play smart and not be overly aggressive.”
During the match against Abu, Paalam capitalized on a rare opportunity in the first round, landing a powerful blow to Abu’s midsection. In the second round, he maintained distance while delivering precise combinations to Abu’s head and body. In the final round, Paalam skillfully evaded Abu’s aggressive attempts to stage a comeback.
With this victory, Paalam advances further in his quest for glory, emphasizing that while winning gold at the Asian Games would be nice, his ultimate aim is the Olympics. He still has “four more fights to go” on his journey towards achieving that dream. The quarterfinal round is scheduled for Tuesday, promising more intense boxing action as Carlo Paalam continues his quest for gold at the 19th Asian Games.