Second straight Olympics stint the bigger goal for Paalam

Carlo Paalam Asian Games
Carlo Paalam after his opening win at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.–JUNE NAVARRO/

HANGZHOU, CHINA—After getting wind of the news that his weight class got ditched by Paris Olympic organizers, Carlo Paalam instantly knew the uncertainty that lay ahead.

“I cannot really tell what my chances are. I’ll just try to do my best, because we don’t know how the judges will score each fight,’’ said Paalam in Filipino.

But more than the skepticism on judging, the 25-year-old slugger is unsure of taking his gloves all the way to the finals of the 19th Asian Games (Asiad) here, where a guaranteed return ticket to the Olympics next year in Paris awaits.

Paalam is now fighting in a heavier weight at 57 kilograms, far from the flyweight category where he took a silver medal in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

“I’m new in this weight, so the movements and punches are heavier and stronger,’’ said Paalam, who got a taste of the opposition in his opening bout on Tuesday when he defeated a much-taller rival in Jordan’s Mohammad Jajeh Abu in the round of 32.

He got the nod of the judges after three rounds in a unanimous 5-0 victory against the lanky 5-foot-10 Jordanian at Hangzhou Gymnasium.

“I saw the other entries in my weight and they all stand at least 5-foot-10 or 5-foot-11,’’ said the 5-foot-4 Paalam.

Sizing up Abu majority of the time, he saw a rare opening near the end of the first round, evading the enemy’s long reach and getting inside with a crunching smack to Abu’s midsection.

The pride of Talakag, Bukidnon, kept his distance again in the second round, but delivered a precise combo to the head and body in a brief exchange with 37 ticks left.

Paalam then weaved out of harm’s way in the final round as Abu, his back against the wall, impatiently went for a knockout in a doggone effort to erase his deficit.

“There are adjustments in our game plan. I have to be smarter in the ring, because my opponents are talented, stronger and smart, too,’’ said Paalam, looking to better his previous bronze medal in the 2018 Asiad in Indonesia.

There are still two qualification meets for Paris after the Asiad, but these tournaments should become more difficult since boxers all over the planet will converge to earn the coveted Olympic spot.

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“Four more fights to o. A gold here will be nice, but my real goal is the Olympics,’’ said Paalam. INQ

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