TOKYO - The Philippines' Carlo Paalam, stung by blurring combination from Briton Galal Yafai that put him down in the first round, lost a 4-1 split decision in the battle for the flyweight gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Saturday.
Paalam had won four straight fights convincingly to get to the finals but immediately fell behind when a left and a right hook by the experienced, hard-hitting 28-year old from Birmingham sent him reeling to the canvas near the Briton's own corner.
The 23-year old from Carmen, Cagayan de Oro got up from the knockdown and came out of the standing eight count swinging, but couldn't overcome the lead the Briton steadily built by then even after taking the third and final round.
"Siguro kung hindi ako nalaglag noong first round, may pag-asa na makuha ko 'yung ginto," said Paalam. "Pero wala po eh. Gusto ko na lang po talaga bumawi. ‘Yun na lang po ‘yung sa akin."
Four judges give it to Yafai
In the end, that knockdown at the 1:48 mark of the opening round proved decisive as the bearded Yafai got the 29-28 nod from four judges. The fifth judge from Peru gave the fight to Paalam by a 29-28 score.
"Massive day for me," said Yafai, younger brother of pro boxers Kal and Gamal, after winning Great Britain's first boxing medal of these Games - and 19th overall.
Paalam admitted later that the experienced Yafai never let him get into any rhythm.
"Ginawa ko rin kung ano ‘yung sinasabi ng mga coaches ko. Pero pine-pressure niya talaga ako. Gusto n’ya talaga na kino-corner ako para hindi ko magawa ‘yung laro ko. Kahit anong galaw ko, kina-cut n’ya ako lagi," he said.
The defeat came as a dampener to an otherwise impressive Olympic debut for the former 'mangangalakal' who won the hearts of a nation with a run that included a win against former Olympic and world champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan.
His gallant stand capped a memorabe three weeks for Team Philippines, which won its first-ever gold medal courtesy of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz as well as two silvers and a bronze from its four-man boxing team.
The one-gold, two-silver, one-bronze finish - the first multi-medal performance for the country since winning three bronzes at the 1932 Los Angeles Games - also put the country at 45th place in the medal table at posting time.
"Salamat sa lahat ng supporta PSC, POC at MVPSF," said Alliance of Boxing Associations of the Philippines (Abap) president Ricky Vargas at the end of a two-silver, one-bronze performance by their four-man boxing team.
"Without your support we could have not achieved this level of performance. Sana nandyan pa kayo in the future."
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