|Carlo Paalam kneels for joy after assuring his medal finish in his maiden Olympic appearance. Reuters|
MANILA — No Olympic 'Paalam' for Carlo Paalam just yet — again.
The Filipino boxer pounced hardly for glory on Tuesday morning, nabbing a huge split technical decision upset over Uzbekistan's Shakhabidin Zoirov to reach the 2020 Tokyo Olympics men's flyweight boxing semifinals at the Kokugikan Arena.
Paalam went on full throttle with his aggressive flurries of blows on the reigning Olympic and world fly king before getting four of the five judges' nods through their quarterfinal match's second round stoppage on a bloody accidental headbutt, clinching the Philippines' fourth medal by assuring himself at least a bronze plum at the end.
“Pilit po niya akong kinukuha sa first round, pero sabi po ni Coach Ronald (Chavez), dapat makuha mo ‘yung first round para sila ang ma-pressure sa’yo. ‘Yun nga po, nakuha ko ang first round, tapos pine-pressure niya talaga ako. Sabi ng mga coaches ko, ilabas ko lang daw ‘yung laro ko,” uttered the 23-year-old.
The victory officially nabbed the country's best Olympiad finish in its 97-year campaign, surpassing the three-bronze haul made in the 1932 Los Angeles Games.
He also clinched the boxing squad's third medal, with Nesthy Petecio battling for women's featherweight gold later in the day and Eumir Marcial tussling in the middleweight semifinals on Thursday.
Before facing the Uzbek, the Cagayan de Oro native annexed his quarterfinal seat after beating Algeria's Mohamed Flissi via unanimous decision in their round-of-16 punchfest.
The one-time Olympian released his inner beast on the opening salvo, erecting total control with his lethal left hook combinations that wobbled Shakhabidin's feet in the last seconds.
And the road for a huge overturn by Carlo became clear like daylight.
Despite Zoirov trying to claw back at the second, the referee halted the bout at the 1:44 mark as they sustained cuts following their head collision.
The 2019 SEA Games golden winner then unleashed cherry-on-top deadly shots on premium as the game resumed, deepening the southpaw's left eye cut which earned his big win in the closing ticks.
Meanwhile, the 2020 AIBA World Boxing Championship gold medalist raised a fightback scare when he landed strong hits consecutively on the blue-clad Filipino in the second frame's onset.
But the Bukidnon-born Paalam flashed his bull-like antics right on the close-out period, until the Olympic sophomore failed to find his groove back as time expired.
Carlo will fight hometown hero Ryomei Tanaka in the semis on Thursday afternoon for a chance to advance to the gold medal match.
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