Carlo Paalam kicked off his campaign for Olympic gold in Tokyo with a win over Irish opponent Brendan Irvine in the first round of the men’s flyweight event at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on Monday.
In the opening round, Paalam trounced Irvine, scoring 10-9, earning unanimous vote from all five judges.
The Filipino fighter stormed Irvine, landing combinations to the head and body, with the jab-straight-hook proving to be a key weapon as his speed proved to be too much for the Irish captain’s resistance.
The second round proved more difficult for the Filipino bet, as Irvine found his stride and switched tactics by engaging Paalam on the inside as the two exchanged combinations in close proximity. Three judges – Mohamed Besmi, Manuel Vilarino, and Yaroslav Renev – gave the nod to the Filipino boxer, who landed the better blows, 10-9, while the other two judges – Wulfren Olivares and Bakytzhan Bekpenbetov – gave the nod to the Irish fighter.
The third round followed the same pattern as the previous two, with the two players swapping combinations and remaining in the pocket. Paalam was more careful in his attacks, maybe feeling that he was ahead in the scorecards, and avoided taking needless risks that might leave an opening for Irvine to land a powerful hit. Nonetheless, the Filipino won Round 3 with the help of three judges.
After three rounds, Bekpenbetov had Irvine up 29-28, but Olivares and Renev both had Paalam up 29-28, and Besmi and Vilarino both gave the Filipino pug a perfect 30 for the 4-1 split decision victory.
Following a quarterfinal exit in the Asia and Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Paalam was forced to compete in a boxing match against 2016 Rio Olympian Rogen Ladon to determine who would represent the Philippines in the qualifiers.
However, that event was canceled, and the remaining spot was awarded to the person with the highest IOC Boxing Task Force ranking, sending Paalam to his first Olympic Games.
Paalam will now compete in the Round of 16 against Algerian Mohamed Flissi.